Government battles to keep high-speed rail plan on track

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said he is “very confident” that the HS2 high-speed rail project will be delivered under budget

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

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said he is “very confident” that the HS2 high-speed rail project will be delivered under budget.

Mr Alexander stressed that the Government would stick to the £42.6bn budget for the rail project which will link London to the north as senior Labour figures appeared to cool on the plans.

His comments came ahead of a crucial week for HS2 when Labour support may be needed for the Government’s proposals to continue their passage through the House of Commons as a number of Tory MPs are preparing to rebel and vote against a Bill which paves the way for the project.

Mr Alexander told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “The real cost is the budget that we set out in June this year - £42.6bn. It hasn’t changed at all. That number includes within it a significant amount of contingency.

Goverment Minister Danny Alexander
Goverment Minister Danny Alexander
 

“I’m very confident that, as we work through the project and deliver it, we will not just deliver it within that budget but, like the Olympic Stadium project, under budget too. That is something I’m working very, very hard to make sure happens.

“We are applying the same techniques we used to deliver the Olympic Park to the HS2 project.”

Asked if he could guarantee that the final bill for HS2 would not be a penny more than the £42.6 billion budget, Mr Alexander said: “We have set that budget and we will stick to it.”

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman played down comments by shadow chancellor Ed Balls comparing the project to the Millenium Dome. The shadow chancellor said the Dome was a mistake and said “I think you should learn from your mistakes”.

Ms Harman stressed the need for the Opposition to keep a “strong eye” on the costs as well as the benefits and called on the Government to address people’s concerns about HS2 rather than dismissing them.

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