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HS2 fight goes on, say campaigners

Published 12/05/2015

The new Government is committed to building HS2
The new Government is committed to building HS2

Campaigners have vowed to continue the fight to stop HS2 going ahead despite the fact that a Conservative election victory should ensure a smooth path for the £50 billion high-speed rail project.

An HS2 Hybrid Bill is going through Parliament with royal assent expected in December 2016 and work on the first phase, from London to Birmingham, due to start in 2017 for completion in 2026.

A second, Y-shaped route extending the line north of Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds is due to be finished around 2032/33.

Labour has been supportive of the project, but if the party had regained power in the election, its ministers were likely to have taken a close look at the cost of the scheme and also considered whether phase two was feasible.

Former shadow chancellor Ed Balls warned there would be "no blank cheque" for HS2.

Phase one will see a high-speed line going through Tory heartlands in the Chilterns where many residents and local councils are bitterly opposed to the project.

Despite this, HS2 - and transport generally - appeared not to be a big issue in the general election campaign.

Richard Houghton, spokesman for anti-HS2 group HS2 Action Alliance, said: "If people are not directly on the line of HS2, they don't seem to care .

"Unless the economy takes a complete nosedive, the new Government will push on with the project, although there must be some doubt about whether work will start as early as 2017.

"We will continue our campaign of opposition. We still think this project is an enormous white elephant for which there is no business case, which is unaffordable and which will cut through areas of outstanding natural beauty.

"There is no firm plan for the London terminus at Euston and there are fears that other rail services will be cut to pay for HS2.

"Few people believe the claim that fares to travel on HS2 will be no more expensive than for travelling on regular services. We will continue to say that the whole project is fatally flawed."

One Conservative MP determined to oppose HS2 is former Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan, who has just retained her seat at Chesham and Amersham.

The project could also face difficulties in its passage through the House of Lords. A recent report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said the Government had not yet made a convincing case as to why HS2 was necessary.

The committee added that t he last Government set out two main objectives for HS2 - increasing capacity on the railway and rebalancing the economy - but had failed to make a convincing case for either.

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