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Call for political consensus on HS2

Source BBC News@

Potential HS2 designHS2 is designed to shorten journey times between London and the Midlands and the North of England

The high speed rail link HS2 needs broad political consensus or it will end in nothing, says Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

In a speech, Mr McLoughlin will accuse Labour of "playing politics with our prosperity" over the project.

On Tuesday the government will also publish a report justifying the £42.6bn cost of the project.

It will aim to answer questions such as who benefits and by how much, after previous studies proved inaccurate.

BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott says the new report will try to shift the focus away from a controversial assumption of people not working on trains, and towards the benefits of providing lots of extra capacity on the rail network,

One part of the report, already published, has argued that the alternative to HS2 would mean 14 years of route closures and longer journeys.


Today's report is the fifth official attempt to justify HS2's chunky price tag.

The first business case, in 2010 got the numbers all wrong. It made the project look far more profitable for the country than it actually was because it accidentally double counted about £8bn worth of benefits.

Since then, each new analysis has been met with derision and anger by opponents of the scheme, who claim the case for building this very fast train line is based on unrealistic assumptions (for example it assumes people don't get much work done on trains), fragile numbers and old data.

The government is adamant that HS2 will transform the UK's economy, with the biggest rewards going to the Midlands and the North of England.

In the end, HS2's survival rests on whether enough politicians and taxpayers believe them.

A study, prepared by Network Rail and the management consultancy Atkins for the government, said that without the project, there would have to be 2,770 weekend closures on the East Coast, West Coast and Midland main lines for the same intended capacity of HS2.

This could lead to travel times between London and Leeds doubling.

Future of Britain

Defending the case for investing in HS2, Mr McLoughlin will acknowledge in his speech that there is a "lively debate" over the project but will say that Labour leaders need to be firmer about backing it.

"You can't say one day you back better infrastructure only the next threaten to stop it being built," he says in pre-prepared comments.

"You can't play politics with our prosperity. The new north-south line is a multi-billion, multi-year investment in the future of Britain."

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: "I look forward to reading the government's revised cost benefit analysis when it is published.

"We must address the capacity problems that mean thousands of commuters face cramped, miserable journeys into cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London. But there can be no blank cheque and ministers must get a grip on costs."

Map showing the route of phases 1 & 2 of the proposed HS2 rail service

Penny Gaines from the Stop HS2 organisation said: "The big flaw in the government's argument is that phase 1 of HS2 won't open to the travelling public until about 2027, meaning there would be no change for passengers until the middle of the next decade.

"But building HS2 would cause years of disruption at [London] Euston, and other places on the rail network as well as chaos along the route of HS2, with roads being diverted during the build and in some places permanently shut."

Graphic showing how HS2 will reduce journey times: London-Birmingham 35 minute saving; London-Nottingham 35 minute saving; London-Sheffield 46 minute saving; London-Leeds 50 minute saving; London-Manchester 60 minute saving.

Đăng ký: Tieng Anh Vui

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