A government-commissioned report out today claims the alternative to a new HS2 high speed rail link would see 14 years of weekend route closures and longer journeys.
The report, by Network Rail and Atkins, says upgrading existing rail lines would severely affect the East Coast mainline and would double travel times between Leeds and London.
HS2 which would eventually link the capital with the North of England has attracted strong opposition from people living along its proposed route and a number of politicians who think the escalating cost , last estimated at £42.6bn, would far outweight the benefits.
Ministers will try to get back on the front foot today with the publication of the report. They will argue that the upheaval of upgrading existing lines would damage the economy and require the demolition of homes and businesses.
A Government source said: “We need to do something because our railways are nearly full, but the alternative to HS2 is a patch-and-mend job that would cause 14 years of gridlock, hellish journeys and rail replacement buses.”
Mary Creagh, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary and Wakefield MP, has responded to reports today that an alternative to HS2 would cause 14 years of rail disruption ahead of the expected publication of a new cost benefit analysis tomorrow.
I look forward to reading the Government’s revised cost benefit analysis when it is published tomorrow. 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.
The managing director of Newtork Rail's network operations told the Today programme that any attempt to upgrade existing lines, rather than implement the HS2, would inevitably lead to "very heavy disruption" to services.
Spending £20 billion on upgrading the existing network isn't an alternative. The disruption that would be caused would be a nightmare. This report makes that absolutely clear.
It would only give us a third of the additional capacity which would mean that we would not be able to put more freight on the rail, we would not be able to put additional services into intermediate stations.
An alternative to the HS2 would result in 14 years of weekend rail closures that would "cripple" the three main routes to the north, according to a Government commissioned report out today.
The report by Network Rail and transport consultant Atkins warns that an alternative of improving existing lines would result in 2,770 weekend closures of theEast Coast Mainline, Midland Mainline and West Coast Mainline, in order to complete 144,000 hours of work.