Simon Jenkins, the chairman of the National Trust, said the “really
stupid line” would only benefit London and would “turn the rest of the
country into a suburb of the capital”.

Will HS2 be an engine for prosperity?

“It is not a sensible project,” Mr Jenkins said. “If you’re
going to spend £33 billion on transport in this country you would not spend
it on this train.”

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.

“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.”

Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield, warned the Chancellor that he will now
“see the strength of public opinion for himself”.

“Every MP along the route will have people lobbying him [and] the people of
Cheshire, like people of Staffordshire, don’t hesitate to make their views
known – and quite right too,” Mr Fabricant said.

He said the Government has “rushed” to attempt to get the project agreed
during this Parliament.

Mr Fabricant claimed the Government could have ensured the route follows
existing transport routes to minimise the damage to the countryside.

“It’s driving its way through the heart of rural Staffordshire and we don’t
have much of rural England left,” Mr Fabricant added.

“When it could have followed an existing transport corridor – just as they do
on the continent – it would have minimised the environmental impact of my
constituency and the rest of England.”

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.

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.”

David Cameron has said the HS2 project is “vital” for the economy.

I think it’s vital for Britain if we’re going to succeed in the global race,”
the Prime Minister said to reporters. “Yes, these are difficult
economic times but I think that’s precisely the time you should be planning
for the future, working out how we link up the cities of our country, how
reduce journey times, how we spread our wealth and prosperity around the
country.

“We do need to rebalance the economy. It has been too dominated by the
South and by certain industries and I think High Speed Rail will really help
to create a better balanced economy.”

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.

Roger Helmer, the Ukip MEP for the East Midlands, said he was concerned that
“good hunting country” will be bisected by the HS2 project.

HS2: ‘Rushed’ plans will drive high speed rail link through heart of rural England … – Telegraph.co.uk
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