Cameron Orders Report on Keeping Down Cost of HS2 Rail

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the new head of the planned high-speed rail line from London to northern England to study how costs can be kept down, amid continued political uncertainty over the project.

The opposition Labour Party has suggested it may scrap the 50 billion-pound ($80 billion) line, known as HS2, if it wins the 2015 election and costs continue to rise. The premier said last month the plan needs all-party support and he called today on “everyone across politics to put their own interests aside and put the national interest first.”

The new chairman of HS2 Ltd., David Higgins, “has agreed that the first vital step will be to bring his penetrating eye and expertise to a specific task,” Cameron said in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference in London. That will be to “report on the costs and to maximize the benefits for all parts of the country as quickly as possible.”

Higgins said after his appointment in September that the line, which will run from London to Birmingham and then on to Manchester and Leeds, can’t be a “political football.” The route is designed to cut journey times and increase capacity on existing lines for freight.

“Those who want to delay or obstruct HS2 show a lack of vision,” Cameron said today. “They are playing politics with Britain’s prosperity.”

Speaking at the CBI conference, Labour’s treasury spokesman, Ed Balls, said the party supports HS2 and the idea of a north-south rail link. “We will take a hard-headed look at the costs and benefits of the scheme to ensure this is the best way to spend 50 billion pounds for the future of our country,” he said.

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