By Matthew Barrett
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Following the Government's approval of the first phase of the HS2 train line from London to Birmingham, several think-tanks and campaign groups have reacted to the news.
The Institute of Economic Affairs' Deputy Editorial Director, Dr Richard Wellings, said:
“The government is ploughing ahead with a hugely expensive project whose economic case is flawed, whose time-savings claims are dubious and whose environmental case is highly suspect. After having made such political capital out of opposing a third runway at Heathrow, one can only assume the government is forging ahead in the face of such criticism as a way of saving face. This project will do nothing to bridge the North-South divide and will instead burden the ever-hammered taxpayer with the task of funding what is a classic white elephant. The government should make one last effort to reconsider its position before it saddles the nation with a high-speed disaster.”
The TaxPayers' Alliance's Director, Matthew Sinclair issued the following statement:
"It is extremely disappointing that the Government is pressing ahead with plans for a new high speed rail line that will cost taxpayers a fortune. The economic case for the new line just isn’t credible and ministers still aren’t being honest about the hidden costs, or the consequences for towns getting a worse service and passengers paying higher fares under their current plans. There has never been a proper consideration of strategic alternatives that could deliver greater capacity more quickly and without the enormous bill. This white elephant will mean a faster journey for a fortunate few but at an enormous cost to the rest of us; it should be abandoned before too much money has been wasted."
Some business groups were supportive of the announcement, including the Manchester Airports Group , whose Chief Executive, Charlie Cornish, said:
"Our primary aim has always been to persuade government of the real benefits of bringing High Speed 2 to Greater Manchester. High speed rail will bring the UK's key economic hubs and international gateways closer together, closing the regional productivity gap and stimulating growth in the Northern cities providing real benefits to the whole of the country. This is a huge opportunity to deliver a much-needed integrated transport system that links road, rail and air together for the benefit of travellers, businesses and freight across the UK. It’s vital that we now make speedy progress on HS2 so we can realize the jobs and wider economic benefits this scheme will provide."
Some Conservative politicians were also positive, including Graham Evans, MP for Weaver Vale, who said:
"This is absolutely fantastic news. I am proud to support a Government which has made the right decision to encourage investment and create jobs in the North and Midlands. The new high speed rail link will free up vital extra capacity and help equip our economy to compete in the 21st Century. I’m also pleased the Government has listened carefully to concerns about the impact of the new line and has taken unprecedented steps to reduce the environmental impact. This will ensure the whole country will benefit from HS2, from Milton Keynes to Manchester."
However, Andrew Garnett, Chairman of Chesham and Amersham Conservative Association – one of the seats affected by HS2 – said:
"This is an appalling decision for Britain, for the communities up and down the line and for Chesham and Amersham in particular. At a time when public opinion is moving against HS2 throughout the country as demonstrated by a recent YouGov poll, it is astonishing that the Government has not taken more time to understand the eminently sensible alternatives to this line that are on offer… This line fails to deliver extra capacity where it is most needed, “…has a business case that has been comprehensively demolished and an environmental case that is, to say the least, lacking in any credibility”. At a time of national austerity we cannot as a nation justify spending £32billions on a vanity project"