A Tory MP planning to vote against the government on HS2 today tells me there are 60 of his colleagues who would like to do the same.
Patrick McLoughlin will continue the Government's fightback over the high-speed rail project by unveiling - yet another - business case.
A previously unreleased research has shown that the High Speed 2 rail project is predicted to have a negative economic impact on some towns.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said Britain "simply can't afford" the £50 billion bill for the proposed High Speed 2 rail project.
He said his party had "more common sense" than political rivals which support the scheme, and instead called for existing lines to be upgraded.
"We recognise that the country's skint and we simply can't afford to spend £50 billion on a project that will only benefit a small percentage of travelling customers in this country," Mr Farage said.
Mr Farage, an MEP, was speaking as the start of UKIP's European parliamentary election campaign in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, one of the towns directly affected by the proposed HS2 routes.
The Supreme Court has rejected a legal bid by objectors to force further consideration of Government proposals for the HS2 national high-speed rail link.
The report into the viability of HS2 is a "cheerleading whitewash" and only heard from "people who support" the London to Birmingham rail link, according to activists.
Campaign manager for the Stop HS2 group Joe Rukin said:
– Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin
Unlike the public accounts committee and treasury committee hearings on HS2, it was clear that this inquiry was going to be a cheerleading whitewash when the transport committee only called people who support HS2 to give evidence.
Despite the official cost of HS2 standing at £50 billion, the committee want to pretend it is £28 billion, even though they said it would be £34 billion in 2011.
In saying this and telling the DfT they should abandon their standard assessments to improve the case for HS2, they are effectively ordering the Government to 'spin harder' on HS2.
HS2 will deliver "the step change in capacity" needed to support growing demand from both passengers and freight, according to the head of the transport committee.
Chairwoman Louise Ellman said if taxpayers were to reap the full benefits of HS2, it was "vital" links were improved between regular and high-speed rail networks.
– transport select committee chairwoman louise ellman
We remain confident that construction of a new high speed line is the only way to deliver the step change in capacity on the West Coast Main Line needed to accommodate long-term demand for both passengers and rail freight.
If we are to spread the benefits from HS2 as widely as possible, it is vital we improve links between the conventional and high-speed networks and bring forward projects to speed up journey times on the conventional network.
One bone of contention for anti-HS2 campaigners has been the cost of the project, with the Taxpayers' Alliance dubbing the project a "white elephant".
In June the transport secretary told the commons HS2 would go £10bn over the original budget of £33bn to cover "contingency costs".
- The projected cost of the whole projects is now £42.6bn
- A total of £7.5bn needed for the purchase of high-speed trains.
- £14.56bn of the overall cost will be set aside for contingency costs.
A group of MPs are "convinced" the controversial HS2 link between London and the north is "justified" and urged the Government to consider building the second and first phases together.
Abandoning the project "significantly outweigh the risks" of building it, as the high-speed rail link is "essential for the UK", according to the transport committee.
Phase one, from London to Birmingham via the Chilterns, is due for completion in 2026, with a second Y-shaped section from Birmingham to north-west and north-east England due to be finished in 2032/33.
In its report, the committee said: "Many important local issues will be debated and resolved by the (HS2) hybrid bill committee and there will be detailed debates about many aspects of the project.
"However, we are convinced that it is essential for the UK for HS2 to go ahead, and to do so as a project which has the backing of all three major political parties."
China's leadership said the country may invest in the controversial HS2 rail project and a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK.
Speaking after talks with David Cameron on the first day of the Prime Minister's visit to China, Premier Li Keqiang said the two sides had agreed to "push for breakthroughs" on nuclear power and high-speed rail.
Mr Li said, "The Chinese side is willing to not only participate but also purchase equities and stocks in UK nuclear power projects, and the UK side is open to this idea."
Speaking ahead of his visit last week, Mr Cameron said, "In terms of HS2, I very much welcome Chinese investment into British infrastructure".
Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh has said that Labour supports the HS2 plan as it will address the need for more rail capacity across the country.
She said: "Labour supports HS2 because we must address the capacity problems that mean thousands of commuters face cramped, miserable journeys into Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London.
"However, three years of Government delays and mismanagement has caused costs to balloon. Incompetent ministers have only just launched the consultation on phase 2 of the route, despite the fact that it was being worked on when Labour were in government."
The HS2 Hybrid Bill that is to go before Parliament will give details on how the first phase of the high speed rail project should progress.
The High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill will provide government powers to allow the construction and operation of the railway.
It will outline powers to:
- build and maintain the first phase of HS2 and its associated works, including secure planning permission for the works;
- compulsorily acquire interests in the land required;
- affect or change rights of way, including the stopping-up or diversion of highways and waterways (permanently or temporarily);
- modify infrastructure belonging to statutory undertakers (e.g. utility companies);
- carry out protective works to buildings and third-party infrastructure.
The publication of the Bill for phase one of the HS2 plan marks a significant milestone in the high speed rail project. Once Royal Assent has been achieved, it is expected that construction of the line from London to Birmingham will begin in 2016/2017 allowing the line to open in 2026.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the HS2 scheme was the 'most ambitious' infrastructure plan since the building of the M25 motorway around London.
– Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
HS2 is the most ambitious and important infrastructure project in the UK since we built the M25 30 years ago, and in 30 more it will be just as integral a part of the nation's prosperity.
The Bill will give us the powers we need to get the railway built and start delivering the extra room on our railways that this country so desperately needs. It will also start the process of rebalancing the economy and bringing our great cities closer together.
That is why the Bill is so important - it marks the move from aspiration to delivery. Now is the time to be bold and ensure HS2 becomes a reality.