A high-speed rail line linking London to the north of England is needed to increase capacity and boost regional economies, a panel of lawmakers said today.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s government should make clear that the costs have been exaggerated and consider starting to build the line, known as HS2, from north to south as well as south to north, the cross-party House of Commons Transport Committee said in a report.
“We remain confident that construction of a new high-speed line is the only way to deliver the step change in capacity on the West Coast Main Line needed to accommodate long-term demand for both passengers and rail freight,” the committee chairwoman, Louise Ellman, said in an e-mailed statement. “We welcome the assurance given to us recently by Sir David Higgins, incoming chair of HS2, that he will re-examine the case for building the line from north to south, as well as from London northwards.”
The Department for Transport should make it clear that the estimated cost of the project is 28 billion pounds ($48 billion), rather than the 50 billion pounds often quoted, the committee said. Cost increases so far have been because of work to mitigate the impact of the line on the environment and local residents, the report said.
The 50 billion-pound estimate, which includes contingencies of 5.8 billion pounds for the first phase of the line to Birmingham and 8.8 billion pounds for phase 2, to northern England, along with 7.5 billion pounds for rolling stock, has led to allegations that the government is giving the project a “blank check,” the committee said.
“I’m confident this is a cost we can come in under,” Cameron said in an interview with BBC Radio Coventry yesterday. “The rest of the world is investing in high-speed rail and I don’t want Britain to miss out.”
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