Select committee calls for government to commit to extensions.

The transport select committee has announced its support for plans for the High Speed 2 rail route linking London with the West Midlands.

However, the committee’s members have urged that the government commit to further extensions to Leeds and Manchester before seeking parliamentary approval for the project.

Although broadly supportive of plans for HS2, the committee says that it has some reservations about the proposals, including the need for ‘greater clarity’ about the project, the financial and economic case and an assessment of alternatives. It also called for the environmental arguments, connections to Heathrow and justification for the route currently proposed to be investigated further.

The committee also warned that investment in the existing rail network should not be sidelined in order to fund HS2 as this would be “unacceptable and counterproductive”.
“High speed rail is affordable,” said committee chair Louise Ellman. “Construction of a high speed rail network should start with the line between London and the West Midlands, as this is where capacity needs are greatest.”

However, she said that the committee was concerned that HS2 may not reach Manchester and Leeds for more than 20 years.

“The government should also look at options to build southwards from the north and link to other lines such as the Midland Main Line,” added Ellman. She also called on the Scottish Government to begin work on a Scottish high speed rail route that could eventually join up with HS2.

Ellman also warned that while the route could boost economic growth, it was important that environmental impacts were taken into consideration, particularly on the countryside and communities along the proposed route.

“This must be better reflected in the business case for HS2 and future phases of the project,” she added. “We would encourage the government to follow existing transport corridors wherever possible.”

The government is expected to announce the results of its HS2 consultation exercise later this year when it will announce whether it will take forward plans to construct the new route.

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