Outwood and Morley MP Ed Balls hints Labour could scrap controversial HS2

Ed Balls
Ed Balls

Plans for a £50bn high speed rail network were thrown into further doubt this week when Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls hinted Labour could scrap the scheme if they win the general election in 2015.

The Outwood and Morley MP said Labour was in favour of HS2, but warned there would be “no blank cheque”.

The proposed network’s budget has increased several times from an initial £33bn.

And some experts believe it could end up costing as much as £80bn.

Mr Balls told his party’s conference: “The question is, not just whether a new high speed line is a good idea or a bad idea, but whether it is the best way to spend £50bn for the future of our country.”

The Taxpayers’ Alliance also fuelled the debate this week by claiming HS2 was not needed to increase capacity and could lead to worse rail services in “dozens of towns and cities”.

Chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: “As the projected costs have increased dramatically, the already fragile case for HS2 has completely disintegrated. There are far cheaper and better ways of substantially increasing capacity much more quickly on the route, not least by reducing the number of first class carriages and lengthening the trains.

“And quite apart from the astronomical and unjustifiable cost to millions of families across the country who would never use HS2, the Government’s own plans show how many towns and cities would in fact be left with a worse service if the line goes ahead. The project should be abandoned now before any more taxpayers’ cash is squandered on what risks being the most expensive white elephant of all time.”

HS2 would allow passengers to get from Leeds to London in 80 minutes, at speeds of up to 250mph.

But the trains would not stop in Wakefield.

A report published by KPMG earlier this month said HS2 would generate £15bn for the economy every year, once it is in operation.

And the government insists it would help to narrow an economic divide between the north and south.