MPs locked horns at the Commons yesterday during a debate on the Government's flagship High Speed Rail 2 project

HS2 could cost more than �50bn

The Government’s flagship High Speed Rail 2 project could cost more than £50bn after more funds were allocated to the scheme.

The news emerged as ministers brought their High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, which allows for the Government to spend money planning the route in detail and buying up property from residents and businesses along the route, to the House of Commons for a second reading yesterday.

It was revealed that £10bn more will be allocated to the project – much of it in a contingency fund – which if used this could see the build on route rise to £42.6bn with another £7.5bn set aside for trains.

An attempt to derail the Bill by Tory backbencher and former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan by tabling an amendment to the Bill calling on the legislation to be scrapped was defeated by 325 votes to 37, Government majority 288 and a vote to give the Bill a second reading was defeated by the Government by 330 to 27.

But many of the MPs who voted against the Government are thought to be Tory rebels, angry at the planned route running through their constituencies and during the debate a number of Tory MPs led by Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) opposed the plans.

Tory MP Bill Cash (Stone) said his constituency was totally unified in opposition to the project, adding: "My constituents gain no benefit from this whatsoever; it's pain and no gain. This is the biggest white elephant in history."

But Transport Minister Simon Burns told MPs: "By building HS2 we will demonstrate Britain still has the ambition and the vision to build world class infrastructure to support a world beating economy."

Gillan had told the House of Commons that the Government should concentrate on upgrading the country's existing road and rail network before it builds the new high speed route.

She said two senior Tories – Europe Minister David Lidington and Attorney General Dominic Grieve – were both worried about the effect it would have on their constituencies and she said that while she may have supported the project 30 years ago, most businesses did not send their employees to meetings but used teleconferencing instead.

Gillan tabled the amendment with 27 other Tories and a handful of Labour MPs, which would have blocked the Bill at second reading.

She said many engineering calculations connected with the project had been wrong, while the costs of alterations to Euston station were inaccurate. The costs were going up on a "minute-by-minute basis", she added.

Gillan said: "Surely we should be looking at our infrastructure and maximising on its potential before building a bright new shiny railway."

Labour former cabinet minister Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras) said the costs of HS2 works at Euston station, which is in his constituency, have been underestimated by 40 per cent as the estimates had not taken into account £2bn needed to pay for trains to run on the lines and VAT costs of around £3bn.

And Tory Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) said he was opposed to the plans as 99 per cent of the country would be subsidising the travel of the 1 per cent who would use HS2.

"Even if it were subsidised travel, why should 99 per cent of people have to pay for the 1 per cent that use it?" he said.

Tory MP Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) said many of his constituents who lived along the route had found the value of their homes had fallen, with many buyers being refused mortgages because of the plans.

Lefroy said the route could hardly be altered because it had to be as straight as possible to carry high speed trains capable of travelling at up to 250mph.

Earlier, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said it was very important the UK was seen as being able to compete with other countries "in the global race to attract businesses".

He said: "The easiest thing in the world for the Government to do would be not to build HS2.

"But the cost of doing that would be huge. It would be a cost in jobs - our modest estimates are HS2 will create and support 100,000 jobs, while the group of core cities predict HS2 will underpin 400,000 jobs, 70 per cent of them outside London."

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