Minister rejects call to abandon HS2 ‘vanity project’

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Plans for a new high-speed rail line have been branded an “insane vanity project” in the Lords.

Tory Lord Framlingham said the HS2 project was “causing misery to thousands and thousands of people along the proposed route, whose lives it has damaged”.

But Labour former transport secretary Lord Adonis urged ministers to stand by the scheme, which was a “shining light” during a “dismal decade”.

At question time, Lord Framlingham said: “Can I beg the minister to do all she can to persuade the Government to abandon this insane vanity project.”

He said it was “cutting great swathes through our environment, including damaging ancient woodlands up and down the country”.

The billions of pounds HS2 will cost would be better spent improving the whole of the railway network, Lord Framlingham said.

Transport minister Baroness Sugg defended the project, which will initially link London and the West Midlands before later phases take the line to Leeds and Manchester.

She said a “step change” was needed in railway capacity, which HS2 would deliver “way beyond what would be delivered in improvements of existing lines”.

Lady Sugg said the Government was committed to delivering the project: “It does remain on track with strong cross-party support.

“The new railway line will bring huge economic benefits that will be felt across the country.”

Lord Adonis hailed HS2 as “one of the great things happening in the country” in a “dismal decade of Brexit and austerity”.

He said the scheme would help equip the country with 21st century infrastructure, adding: “It’s about time we started to mirror the great achievements of the Victorians once again.”

Lady Sugg said it was one of the biggest infrastructure projects seen in the UK and more than 100 million people were expected to use HS2 trains.