‘No proof’ high speed rail is value for money

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The £43 billion high speed rail network through Sheffield has come under renewed attack – this time from a House of Commons watchdog.

MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee claim there is no real evidence that HS2 will provide value for money.

But Derbyshire Dales MP and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the Government remains committed to the project.

He said it is necessary to resolve future capacity problems on the railways.

However, Mr McLoughlin admitted the Government had been ‘wrong’ to promote the HS2 scheme on the basis of speed, saying that cutting 20 minutes off the time from London to Birmingham, in the first stage of the line, was ‘almost irrelevant’.

He said: “It should always have been about capacity. The case for HS2 is absolutely clear.”

Mr McLoughlin said anyone thinking the same budget would be set aside for other transport improvements if HS2 was not built was ‘with the fairies’.

Public Accounts Committee chairman and Labour MP Margaret Hodge said: “The Department for Transport has not demonstrated that this is the best way to spend on rail investment in these constrained times, and that improved connectivity will promote growth in the regions.”

She said ministers were ‘making huge spending decisions on the basis of fragile numbers and out of date data’.

The Institute of Directors has already called the scheme a ‘grand folly’.