Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has backed the controversial HS2 scheme, insisting it will become the new "backbone of Britain".
Opponents of the scheme, who believe the project is a waste of money and should be scrapped, seized on an official report published today which revealed that the estimated economic benefits of the £50 billion project are falling.
However, Mr McLoughlin argued the line was not "some expensive add-on" but a scheme which would help people with their daily lives.
Speaking at the National Rail Conference in Manchester, the MP said:
"As the impact of this week’s storm in the south shows, when trains are crowded and disrupted, life for hardworking people gets more difficult. That’s why the new north-south line isn’t some expensive add on. It’s about helping people with their daily lives.
"It’s needed to help commuters who now have to stand - and will soon have to queue - to get on their trains. It’s needed to help the cities of the north which want to compete on equal terms with London. It will be the new backbone of Britain."