David Cameron has called for political consensus behind the HS2 rail link – warning that those who oppose the project are ‘putting our country’s future at risk’.
The Prime Minister announced that Sir David Higgins, the new boss of the planned high-speed link, has been tasked with finding ways to cut the estimated £50bn price of the scheme, to drive down costs and ‘make it affordable for our country’.
Speaking to the CBI’s annual conference in London, Mr Cameron dismissed as ‘nonsense’ suggestions that there were other ways of cutting back the cost of modernising the railways, insisting HS2 was a ‘vital investment’ which would ensure growing prosperity is not confined to the South but is shared with the North.
The scheme needs cross-party approval if it stands a chance of being built, but Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls threw Labour’s support into doubt by raising concerns about the spiralling costs earlier this year, insisting he would not sign a ‘blank cheque’.
In a clear swipe at Labour, Mr Cameron said: “To people who say there is some other cost-reduction plan we could also have, I say that is nonsense.
“I think with Sir David Higgins in charge, with the budget we have and the contingency we have, this is a good investment for Britain.
“People who are against it, in my view, are putting our country’s future at risk, they are putting the future of the north of England at risk.
“We need to have a concerted consensus across business, across politics, that we get behind these large infrastructure projects.”
He rejected arguments that the cost of HS2 will divert investment away from other necessary work on the UK’s transport network.