Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Campaign's Late Push for Rail Plan; Critics Attack High Cost of Key Project

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Campaign's Late Push for Rail Plan; Critics Attack High Cost of Key Project

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson

HIGH speed rail campaigners are making a last-ditch push to secure support as critics attack the cost of Britain's largest infrastructure project.

The pounds 32bn project has come under fire after research appeared to suggest there would be little financial gain for the North and that the taxpayer would struggle to see any real benefits.

A Government consultation on the first stage of the 20-year plans is set to end this month with early indications suggesting opponents in the South have swamped the Department for Transport with objections.

Those fears have prompted members of the Campaign for High Speed Rail to make a final push to ensure the North's voice is heard.

Under Government plans a line will be built first from London to Birmingham before heading in a Y-shape to Leeds and Manchester.

North of Leeds, the new trains will switch onto the existing East Coast Main Line as they head north to Newcastle and Scotland.

The Institute of Economic Affairs said claims that this would bridge the North-South divide and bring regeneration should be treated with scepticism as the evidence was "largely speculative". The institute's deputy editorial director Dr Richard Wellings said: "High Speed 2 is another political vanity project - like Concorde and the Millennium Dome - being ploughed ahead with complete disregard for properly thought through commercial prospects or the mounting opposition to it."

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has previously urged firms and organisation in the North to take part in the consultation in order to offset views such as these, and to counteract mounting opposition from mainly Conservative constituencies through which the line will pass.

Professor David Begg, director of the Campaign for High Speed Rail, said: "They have completely failed to grasp the wider benefits of the high-speed rail project, which will create jobs, boost investment and spread the economic wealth of this country to places outside of the Tax Payer Alliance heartlands of London and South East England. …

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