Leeds: Questions over HS2 rail project

How Leeds station could look when HS2 arrives

How Leeds station could look when HS2 arrives

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BUSINESS LEADERS have argued high speed rail is vital to the future of the Leeds economy after MPs questioned whether the project represents value for money.

The Public Accounts Committee of MPs claimed that taxpayers could not rely on the Government’s case for investing in the planned HS2 line between London and Leeds.

It criticised the Government for not applying the lessons from HS1 - the high speed rail line connecting London to the Channel Tunnel - to HS2.

MPs expressed concern that the Government’s own study showed HS1 was “poor value for money” and officials had tried to claim their were “wider, wider benefits” not taken into account by their own figures.

The PAC’s report, published today, also pointed out that the sale of the Government’s stake in cross-Channel rail service Eurostar last year for £757 million was “significantly less” than the £3 billion invested by taxpayers.

PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “HS2 would require huge public investment and taxpayers are rightly concerned that their money should be spent wisely.

“This case will do nothing to reassure them.”

But business groups argued transport investment, such as HS2, was vital to the Leeds economy.

Leeds Chamber of Commerce president Gerald Jennings said: “Decades of underinvestment have left this region’s infrastructure creaking and unable to cope at peak periods, one only has to commute across the Leeds City Region to see this.

“Rail capacity between London and our region is fast being constrained, whilst journey times between the major cities of the north and the midlands can often take as long as journeys to the capital.”