High speed rail scheme criticism by watchdog

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Concerns have been raised about the viability of the planned HS2 high speed rail network.

Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office has criticised plans for the £33 billion line, which would reduce journey times between Sheffield and London.

In a report, the NAO said the planned high speed network had an ‘ambitious’ timetable. Its report added the £33bn cost did not include VAT.

But Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, whose Derbyshire Dales constituency adjoins Sheffield, said: “I welcome any examination of the high speed rail programme but I do not accept the NAO’s core conclusions.

“This is because they depend too much on out-of-date analysis.

“High speed rail would provide necessary capacity, and generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of economic benefits.”

Robin Stonebridge, chairman of Chesterfield Canal Trust, which is faced with disruption on the waterway south of Sheffield if the line is built, said: “Around £100m has been spent on high speed rail already. The report shows £35m of that money could have been better spent restoring our entire canal.”