Cheryl Gillan, the former Welsh Secretary, warned that thousands of people
will have their lives “blighted” by the project.

Mrs Gillan, whose Buckinghamshire constituency lies on HS2’s proposed route,
has said that commuters face years of soaring rail fares if the project goes
ahead.

She also attacked the decision not to link the railway line directly to
Heathrow airport.

Will HS2 be an engine for prosperity?

“Thousands of people will have woken up this morning to find their lives and
businesses are blighted, not just in the short term, but for a very long
period of time,” Mrs Gillan told the Daily Telegraph.

“My constituents have been going through this since 2009. There isn’t even a
proper compensation scheme in place yet.”

The HS2 line will cut journey times between London and Manchester to one hour
and eight minutes.

Under the plans a journey from London to Leeds will take an hour and 22
minutes – 50 minutes quicker than the current journey time.

The Government said that the preferred route of phase two, running north from
Birmingham will have five stops at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton in
the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds.

Under the original plans for the project a “spur” was intended to link
Heathrow to the rest of the line.

That section of the line has now been put “on hold” until the completion of
the Government’s commission into the future of Britain’s airports, which is
being conducted by Sir Howard Davies.

It is certain to fuel speculation that senior Government figures do not
consider Heathrow to be the best location for a major hub airport in the UK.

Mrs Gillan said that the Government’s explanation was an “excuse” and said
ministers should insist that the commission reports back sooner.

“Once again we see that Heathrow has missed out and the excuse is that they
need to wait for the commission on airports to report back,” Mrs Gillan
said. “I would want that report brought forward.

“Is this really a price worth paying? This is a project that was inherited
from Labour and it now has a life of its own. The benefits are not proven –
it’s a vanity blanket.”

Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, also attacked
the Government’s announcement and said there is “nothing in it” for his
constituency.

“We haven’t got a railway station, my constituents will have all the
disruption and fear of a project that won’t even start for 13 years and have
the pleasure of, if it goes through, of being able to drive half an hour
north to get to London half an hour faster – there’s nothing in it for
north-west Leicestershire at all,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“At the end of the day, this has cross-party support, this was originally
a Labour policy brought in by Lord Adonis… but I think it’s badly thought
out and I have no confidence in the civil servants in the Department of
Transport. They delivered the Bombardier rolling stock fiasco and West Coast
Mainline franchise debacle.”

Mr Osborne insisted there will be regional benefits as a result of the
project.

“Of course it’s going to help London but it’s also going to help Birmingham,
Leeds, Manchester, and there are stations at Sheffield in the East Midlands
– Crewe is going to be an important rail hub,” he told BBC News.

“All of these communities are going to benefit and if it’s business coming
from the south up to the north, that’s a good thing as well.

“Our country has become so unbalanced and for the last 15 years as a country
we gambled on the City of London and its prosperity and look where that got
us. This new Government is determined to change that and make sure the
economic geography is changed and businesses are connected and able to
benefit from that.”

Mr Osborne said the route has been chosen to “avoid population centres”, but
he admitted that “you can’t build a brand new railway line without having
some impact on families.”

Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, said the train line will take
pressure off the UK’s transport network despite conceding that the project
will be “annoying” for some people.

“One knows that you’re going to upset a number of people because the route
will go through their area and that will be annoying for them and you’ll get
opposition to it,” Mr McLoughlin told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But overall one has got to look at the long-term chances for the United
Kingdom. This is the first railway to be built north of London for 120
years.

“The easy thing for the Government would be not to do this.”

Maria Eagle, the shadow transport secretary, questioned the decision not to
link the route directly to Heathrow.

“I’m a bit concerned that the Government plans seem to be by-passing cities,
building stations outside cities, and they appear to have abandoned the spur
to Heathrow,” she told BBC Radio 5 Live.

HS2: Government faces immediate backlash over new high-speed rail link – Telegraph.co.uk
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