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Key Conservatives on-board with HS2

Key Conservatives on-board with HS2

🕔02.Oct 2013

In his keynote speech to the Conservative Conference in Manchester, David Cameron has backed HS2, insisting “we have to build a new railway”. Comparing HS2 to the M1 and the Severn Bridge, he warned that without large infrastructure projects the economy would today be “hobbled”.

While Cameron reiterated the arguments concerning capacity – “the West Coast mainline is almost full” – and the choice of high-speed rail – “the choice is between another old-style Victorian one or a high speed one” – Cameron attempted to refocus the case for HS2 on bridging the North-South divide, going as far as to term it the new “North-South railway line”.

Drawing upon his key theme of ‘land of  opportunity’, Cameron said “when I say a land of opportunity for all, I mean everyone – North and South.” The Prime Minister argued that HS2 was about “bringing North and South together in our national endeavour” and moving away from a “London-centric” economy, asking “think of what more we could do with the pistons firing in all parts of our country.”

Earlier in the week transport secretary Patrick McLoughin similarly used his speech to back HS2. Again, McLoughlin took the opportunity to re-centre the argument on the North-South divide.

While stating HS2 was “as an essential heart bypass for the clogged arteries of our transport system”, McLoughlin went to great lengths to also stress “we need a new north-south line to make our country stronger”.

McLoughlin said as a Midlands MP he was tired of London commentators “who can’t understand why the rest of the country needs great transport too” and guaranteed the project would be delivered “on time, and on budget”.

Later, at a fringe event, the Transport Secretary urged supporters to “hold [their] nerve, to see off the protesters.” He acknowledged the concerns of those opposed to the rail line, but stated that the true benefits of HS2 could not be costed by conventional financial models.

“We’re not building this for five years or 10 years, this railway will be being used in 100 years,” he said. “Sometimes you can’t get that on a benefit/cost ratio analysis. When you look at the benefit/cost ratio for the Jubilee line in London it didn’t stack up, but if it hadn’t been built, nor would Canary Wharf have been.”

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