Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has defended the controversial HS2 rail project as ‘vitally important’ to Britain’s economic future.
It comes after a scathing parliamentary report found the Government had failed to make a ‘convincing strategic case’ for the £42 billion scheme.
In a stinging assessment of the proposed link, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said the apparent benefits were dwindling as the costs spiralled.
Ministers’ case for the project was based on ‘fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions which do not reflect real life’, with no evidence that it would aid regional economies rather than sucking even more activity into London, said the report.
It also warned that an ‘unrealistic’ target of securing the necessary legislation by 2015 risked a repeat of costly errors such as the botched West Coast main line franchise award.
But Mr McLoughlin insisted the project can be completed within budget and will benefit the United Kingdom as a whole.
He said: “We set a budget. The budget is very clear. It is a £42 billion budget, including a £14 billion contingency. The Mayor of London says it’ll be 70, someone else says it’ll be 80, soon we’ll have someone saying it’s £100 billion. The simple fact is we’ve got to deliver it within that budget.
“If we are going to be able to compete globally, we need to be able to attract businesses to our cities. To attract businesses to our cities, there needs to be good connections. That is vitally important.”
Meanwhile, more than 100 residents in Kings Bromley added their voices to the growing campaign against the scheme, marching more than 10 miles along the proposed line.