High speed rail will bring billions to North East claim Ministers

A study has concluded that the North East could benefit from the new high speed rail line being planned despite not having dedicated high speed stations

Opposition to the Government’s £42bn high-speed rail line is mounting after estimated cost rose by more than £8bn
Opposition to the Government’s £42bn high-speed rail line is mounting after estimated cost rose by more than £8bn

The North East of England will share in up to £7bn of economic benefit from the new high speed rail line, a new study will claim today.

It comes as Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin launches a campaign to win support for the planned North-South line with a warning that existing rail networks are running out of capacity.

A paper by KPMG will stress that the high speed rail service known as HS2 will benefit the entire country, including towns and cities which do not have dedicated high speed stations.

High speed tracks will run from London to Birmingham and then as far as Leeds - but trains will then transfer on to conventional lines to continue the journey north to destinations including Durham, Darlington and Newcastle.

This has led to fears that the North East will not share in the benefits from the line, which will cost up to £42bn to build.

But the study concludes that regions not directly served by high speed rail trains will still benefit, thanks to faster long-distance journey times which will allow them to trade with firms further away and attract staff more easily - growing the economy in those regions by between £5bn and £7bn a year.

Mr McLoughlin will warn today that the East Coast Main Line will be unable to cope if a new service isn’t created, affecting all long distance services as well as freight.

He will say: “Speed is not the main reason for building the new railway. The main reason we need HS2 is as a heart bypass for the clogged arteries of our transport system.

“It will lift the long-distance burden from our overcrowded main lines so they can concentrate on what they are best at.

“More local trains. More freight trains. More services for towns and cities up and down Britain.

“Because the point about High Speed Two is that you won’t have to travel on it to gain from the better transport system and economic growth it will support.”

And he will hit out at claims that the rail project’s budget is out of control.

“The budget for HS2 is £42.6bn. Not £70bn. Not £80bn. Not the scare stories from opponents.

“£42.6bn for the full network to Leeds and Manchester with links onto the East and West Coast mainlines beyond to serve Scotland, Newcastle and the North West.”

He will add: “The head of Network Rail said in July he expects the final cost of construction to be significantly less than £42.6bn.”

It follows the publication of a damning report this week by House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said the Government’s case for the massive project was based on “fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life” with no evidence that it would aid regional economies rather than sucking even more activity into London.

The British Chambers of Commerce last night wrote to David Cameron urging him to press ahead with the line.

And Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “British businesses are right to back the building of a new north-south rail to deliver the major increase in capacity needed on Britain’s rail network in the years to come.”

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