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.
George Osborne will try and say ,,, that we need infrastructure investments and therefore it follows that because HS2 is an infrastructure investment, we need HS2. This overly simplistic argument is now the only thing Government has got left to tout this boondoggle with because every other argument: that’s it’s needed for capacity, that it’s got green credentials, that it’ll be a magic wand to cure the north-south divide, that it’s got a good business case, or that other countries are doing it have been knocked down.
Every one of the stock arguments for HS2 has been knocked down, and all they have left is to stamp their feet and say ‘We want our train set.’”
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."
Thousands of women will take part in Meadowhall's first ever Race for Life later. Four thousand people have signed up for the event which is held in aid of Cancer Research UK. It's the first to ever be held at a shopping centre.
The Government has hailed a "landmark victory" for its HS2 high-speed rail scheme, despite legal flaws in the consultation process.Read the full story ›
Homeowner Tony Heald fears the value of his house has been slashed because of the new high speed rail link. The route was announced two weeks ago and for Tony it means a huge tunnel will pass 35 metres under the front door of his family home.
Only those homes which need to be knocked down to make way for the rail link are entitled to compulsory purchase payments, but for Tony it means up to 75 thousand pounds could be wiped off the value of his property. Matt Price reports.
Ian Jordan, HS2 Ltd Director for Leeds, Manchester and Heathrow, defended the scheme after a village in North Yorkshire said it would blight their community in a meeting tonight.
He said: "HS2 will generate jobs and rebalance the country's economy, delivering a return on investment that will benefit regions like Yorkshire.
"Wherever practical, the route has been designed to minimise potential impacts on people and properties as well as important environmental features.
"The Government and HS2 Ltd will continue to work closely with communities and interested parties to refine plans to find the right balance between delivering essential infrastructure and respecting the rights and concerns of those most affected.