The new high speed rail line HS2 could damage our region's economy. That is according to a report by MPs today, who say a fast rail link between London and Leeds via South Yorkshire, could mean economic activity being sucked down south.
The government says that's nonsense, and insists the line will be built. Phil Hornby reports
Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, has said the economic justification for HS2 is "very questionable".
It comes as the Committee of Public Accounts issued a withering assessment of the HS2 high-speed rail project, warning costs were spiralling whilst benefits were dwindling.
The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said the case for the £50 billion project was "absolutely clear," as rail routes would be "overwhelmed" by rising passenger numbers.
MPs from the Commons public accounts committee have called for the Department of Transport to provide more detailed evidence to support the estimated £50 billion investment. Presenting the committee's findings, chairperson Marget Hodge said:
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has rejected the findings of the Commons public accounts committee, which criticised the costs and benefits of the HS2 high-speed rail network.
Mr McLoughlin said the case for the £50 billion project was "absolutely clear," as rail routes would be "overwhelmed" by rising passenger numbers. He said:
"The project will free up vital space on our railways for passengers and freight, generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and deliver better connections between our towns and cities.
"HS2 is a vital part of our plan to give Britain the transport infrastructure it needs to compete.
The HS2 high-speed rail project has come under renewed attack by the Commons public accounts committee, who have accused the Department of Transport of failing to present a "convincing strategic case" for the £50 billion project.
The public spending watchdog raised a number of questions about the apparent benefits and warned the costs were spiralling.
Grimsby MP, Austin Mitchell, told members of the Public Accounts Committee last night that he saw no evidence that the £42 billion HS2 scheme would help to bridge the north-south divide.
Instead, he told the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Transport, Philip Rutnam, that he was 'trying to justify a policy, in principle, that was plucked out of the air,' (video below). Rutnam replied that it was an essential project as trains are filling up.
There's a new attempt today to block the controversial plans for the high speed railway connecting Yorkshire and London. Thirty five Tory MPs have signed a motion aimed at derailing legislation to pave the way for the new rail link which they claim will be an expensive white elephant.
The motion, signed by politicians from four parties reads: "This House declines to give a second reading to a Bill which authorises preparatory expenditure on a railway without specifying further detail of the route and a limit on expenditure."
The project to bring high speed rail services to Yorkshire has around a £3 billion funding gap according to the National Audit Office.
The controversial new HS2 link will cut the journey time from Leeds to London to just an hour and 20 minutes and is due to be completed by 2033. The government spending watchdog says Ministers have yet to decide where three-point-three billion pounds worth of funding for the project is coming from.
Geraldine Barker from the National Audit Office and Rail Minister Simon Burns say the project is still in the early stages.