HS2 high-speed rail link 'white elephant', MP claims

The debate in full from BBC Democracy Live

A proposed £32bn national high-speed rail link was described as a "white elephant" during an MPs' debate.

Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom made the claim adding that HS2 was "out of date before it is even completed".

Liberal Democrat Dr Julian Huppert said the project was "a cold, hard necessity which we cannot afford to ignore".

The line would first connect London to Birmingham, then to Manchester and Leeds and include stops in the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.

Ms Leadsom, whose South Northamptonshire constituency would be affected by the line, said she was against plans for a scheme that she thought was "unjustifiable and eye-wateringly expensive".

"If this route was going from Truro to Paddington or from Leeds to Edinburgh, I would still be here today defending the taxpayer," she added.

Coventry North-West MP Geoffrey Robinson (Labour) was also opposed to plans and said: "It's the largest capital project this country will ever have engaged in and it is money, frankly, that could better be spent elsewhere."

Successful economy

Transport Minister Theresa Villiers backed HS2 to defuse the "passenger capacity time bomb" on the West Coast Main Line and denied the scheme was only about cutting the London to Birmingham journey time to 49 minutes.

"It's about delivering the inter-city transport links that are absolutely crucial for the future success of our economy."

Labour's shadow rail minister John Woodcock argued HS2 was "a vital lifeline of economic growth".

"We will be failing future generations if we pass up the opportunity to employ the most advanced technology available," said the Barrow MP.

A petition against the scheme has been delivered to Downing Street with 108,000 signatures.

Stop HS2 campaigners assembled at Old Palace Yard, opposite the House of Commons, to protest against the plans.

The line would also run through rural parts of Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire.

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