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VIDEO: Star readers call for rail plans to be scrapped amid cost fear

Artist's impression of planned high speed line

Artist's impression of planned high speed line

Readers of The Star have voted more than eight to one for a £43 billion high-speed rail line through Sheffield to be scrapped.

The Star held an online poll as fears were raised the cost of the link could spiral to as much as £80 billion.

The Government says the current figure includes a contingency sum to cover for potential cost rises and the bill should not increase further and could be as little as £28bn.

In The Star’s vote, 81 per cent of people said the line should be scrapped compared with 19 per cent still in favour of it going ahead.

But Sheffield’s political establishment remains in favour, with backing from all MPs and Sheffield Council.

A spokeswoman for HS2 Limited, the Government company set up to build the high-speed network from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds via Sheffield, said: “The costs of HS2 are firmly under control and we fully intend to deliver Britain’s new high-speed rail network within the budget set.

“The cost of HS2 is £42.6bn, £14.4bn of which is contingency. We have not asked for a blank cheque and we do not want one, we intend to keep costs under control. There is a strong case for the project – over the last 15 years we have seen the number of people making long-distance journeys double.

“Our existing railway, which was built in Victorian times, has served us well, but we require a change and the way forward is high speed.

“Naysayers never built anything. There is no other alternative that delivers the benefits of HS2.

“We are focused on delivering within budget to provide the capacity we need and free up space to expand commuter services and freight.”

For -Norman Baker, Transport Minister

HS2 is an absolutely essential investment – not simply because it will get people from A to B faster but also, and more importantly, because it will free up capacity on the existing network, which is struggling to cope with demand.

It will also create jobs, reduce congestion on our roads and our reliance on domestic flights, as well as cut journey times between London and the North.

Some people have expressed concerns that the costs of HS2 are ‘spiralling out of control’, concerns seized upon by longstanding opponents of the scheme.

However, the figures don’t back up these concerns.

The increase in cost is almost entirely down to the introduction of a new extra contingency fund, a fund that exists solely to deal with any problems that may or may not crop up in the future.

The Olympics had a similar contingency fund and they were brought in under budget.

High-Speed Rail Two promises to improve connectivity between London and the North, reduce the need for domestic flights and boost the economies of cities like Sheffield.

Against - Coun Rob Murphy, Sheffield Green Party

The Green Party has come out against high-speed rail nationally.

I can see the benefits of building the new network.

However, I don’t think creating new inter-city transport links should be a priority at the moment when other budgets are being squeezed in Government departments and in local councils.

The money earmarked for high-speed rail could instead be better-spent improving the transport services we have at present – which are not in the shape they should be.

I think the £40-odd billion cost would go a long way towards improving local infrastructure nationally and on a local level around South Yorkshire.

It could be used for projects in Sheffield such as reinstating passenger trains to Stocksbridge, or reopening stations at places such as Millhouses and Heeley.

There are a lot of areas which could be improved.

The total cost of high-speed rail is a huge sum compared to the amounts of money Sheffield Council and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive have to spend on supporting public transport and sustainable forms of travel.

 

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