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Labour accused as doubts shed on HS2

Staffordshire | News | Published:

George Osborne has accused Labour of putting economic growth at risk after the Party cast doubt on the future of the high-speed rail line HS2.

The Chancellor said his opposite number Ed Balls was 'tearing up' the plan for the £50 billion project to link the Midlands and the North.

It comes after the Shadow Chancellor revealed he would review the second phase of the planned new railway which would link Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

If Mr Balls was to scrap the northern leg it would bring a sigh of relief to homeowners along 33 miles of rural Staffordshire who are set to lose their homes or be blighted by 250mph trains every two minutes.

Mr Osborne said: "Ed Balls is now openly talking about cancelling £21bn of long-term investment in the North and not going ahead with the second phase of HS2.

"I am challenging the Shadow Chancellor to reverse his position immediately.

"After decades of the gap between the North and the South growing, it's now starting to close.

"If that's going to continue we must invest in projects like HS2. It would be a real blow to tear up the plans, so that HS2 would never reach Manchester and Leeds."

David Cameron and Boris Johnson have both criticised Mr Balls' comments saying Labour was 'turning its back' on the West Midlands.

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Mr Balls said Labour would press ahead with the London and Birmingham leg of HS2 in 2017. That part of the scheme is currently planned to extend to Lichfield which would hit homeowners along a 12-mile stretch. But the need for the Lichfield spur from Birmingham could be called into question if the northern connection is axed by Labour.

Mr Balls said 'big questions' would be asked about the northern link through Staffordshire. Instead, he suggested 'priority' could be given to a new line between the North East and North West.

A spokesman for Mr Balls said: "It's time George Osborne got on and did his job as Chancellor. On his watch the costs of HS2 have spiralled and it's time he got a grip."

UKIP is campaigning on a platform to scrap HS2 entirely and it had previously looked like the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all agreed on the need of all of HS2, making it unlikely to be an election issue.

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