Minister pledges: Southern critics can’t derail HS2 plan

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The Transport Secretary has attacked the critics who want him to scrap the new high-speed rail line between Leeds and the capital, suggesting they simply do not understand the needs of the North.

Patrick McLoughlin told the YEP that the HS2 project will go ahead “no shadow of a doubt”, despite ongoing criticism over the scheme’s rising costs.

“No huge infrastructure project is ever uncontroversial - and HS2 is a huge project,” the Transport Secretary said.

“But some of the voices that are sounding against it... I’ve got to be careful about the words I use, but they are people who are not known for their Northern connections.”

It emerged last month that the projected cost of HS2 had risen by almost £10bn.

Labour’s former Business Secretary Lord Mandelson is just the latest politician to attack the scheme, warning it could be an “expensive mistake”.

But Mr McLoughlin – the MP for Derbyshire Dales - suggested much of the criticism is coming from the south-east of England.

Alluding to Lord Mandelson’s tenure as MP for Hartlepool before he quit in 2004, Mr McLoughlin said: “I’m not sure he’s been back North since. I’m not sure how often he went when he was Member for Hartlepool, but let’s leave that to one side.”

Mr McLoughlin also attacked elements of the London-based media which have attacked the project as a waste of money.

“It’s a few columnists in some very big papers, as far as I can see,” he said. “I don’t think many of them are Yorkshire-based.”

Mr McLoughlin is clear that HS2 will be the spark for massive regeneration in Leeds.

”I’ve been to parts where they’ve got high-speed trains and looked at what’s happened,” he said. “Lille (in France) is a very good example, where you’ve got a lot more investment into the city.

“Or go down to King’s Cross and see all the development that’s going in there – we’ve got Google coming, we’ve got huge development going on.

“We need to attract worldwide companies to base themselves in this country. And if you’re going to attract people to Leeds, you’ve got to show we’ve got good connections.”

David Cameron, the Transport Secretary added, is also “very committed” to the project.

“What the Prime Minister would say is this is essential for the Northern cities; this helps them compete with the other cities of Europe,” he said.

And asked if the scheme will definitely go ahead, Mr McLoughlin said: “Yes. No shadow of a doubt. The Bills are before Parliament. The Chancellor has found the money. On we go.”

FACTS AND FIGURES

The high-speed rail line between London and the North is one of the biggest infrastructure projects Britain has undertaken in generations, and includes the construction of a new mainline station in the centre of Leeds.

cost of line: £42.6bn

plus trains: £7.5bn

total COST: £50bn

Distance: 330 miles

Years to build: 17

Completed: 2033

Speed: 250mph

to London: 1hr 22mins

to B’ham: 57 mins

to Sheffield: 18 mins

trains per hour: 18

New jobs: 60,000