High-speed rail critics ‘talking nonsense’

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SUPPORTERS of plans for a high-speed rail line linking Sheffield to London have hit back after critics said the £30 billion project would actually harm commuters.

A report released today by the Tax Payers’ Alliance claims massive investment in the HS2 project - which will link Sheffield to the capital in 75 minutes - will result in slower journeys and reduced frequency for all other routes.

The Government labelled the claims “complete nonsense”.

The critical report says the HS2 scheme, which is not due to be completed for at least 20 years, will mean the postponement of other projects such as electrification of the Midland Mainline and increasing carriage capacity.

The Tax Payers’ Alliance also claim that once the HS2 line is finally completed there will be less frequent services running to London from Sheffield, Chesterfield and Doncaster and local and regional transport will be cut back.

Tax Payers’ Alliance director Matthew Sinclair said: “High-speed rail isn’t the right way of getting the capacity we need. The project is set to cost taxpayers a fortune and it is increasingly clear it will be a huge white elephant.

“The Government are passing over an affordable opportunity to increase capacity quickly in favour of a flashy new train set that won’t be delivered for the best part of two decades.”

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond described the report as spurious and added: “It’s perfectly possible to invest in major strategic rail projects and still invest in other rail projects.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “This is complete nonsense, largely based around speculation, guesswork and spurious crystal-ball gazing about our future plans for investment in the existing railways.”

Ben Still, director of strategy at South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said: “High-speed rail, alongside continuing investment in the Midland Mainline and East Coast Mainline, will have a transformative effect on the economy of South Yorkshire.

“Over £30bn of benefits could be generated from a high-speed rail network serving Sheffield and Leeds.”

Prof David Begg, Campaign for High Speed Rail director, said: “It seems strange to employers in the Midlands and the North that an organisation that essentially supports business is taking so much effort to attack a much-needed national investment which will help create jobs in areas where businesses struggle to stay ahead.”