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HS2: Reaction From Train Companies, Taxpayers' Alliance And Unions

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Train companies welcomed news that the Government is to go ahead with the HS2 high-speed rail project but a taxpayers' group described the scheme as a "white elephant".

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "HS2 is a vote of confidence in the railways and recognition of the vital role the industry has to play in supporting jobs and driving sustainable economic growth.

"HS2 would help to alleviate the capacity crunch on many of our major rail corridors and offer the prospect of shorter journey times between London and other major English cities.

"It would also allow for faster and more frequent local services in areas between London and Birmingham, as space is freed up on existing lines.

"By deploying the best of British design and engineering in the construction of the high-speed line in Kent (HS1), we struck the right balance between national and local interest. We can do the same again with HS2."

Full coverage of the HS2 decision by the government:

Emma Boon, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "High-speed rail (HSR) will leave generations of ordinary taxpayers paying for a train set that will mostly be used by the rich.

"We can't afford £32 billion for this project right now. The business case is fundamentally flawed and the Government have vastly inflated the benefits of HSR to the regional economy while hiding the true costs of the project.

"HSR is a white elephant that won't help the millions of commuters stuck on overcrowded trains up and down Britain."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said: "No-one has fought harder for the investment and modernisation required to drag the UK's railways out of the slow lane than the RMT, and development of high-speed links must be a key component of our rail plans.

"However, any attempt by the Government to pay for these developments by cutting jobs, services and investment elsewhere in the system, along the lines set out in the (Sir Roy) McNulty rail review, will meet with the stiffest resistance from the RMT.

"We are demanding that HS2 be built, owned and operated in the public sector free from the greed and profiteering of the private rail companies whose exploitation of the travelling public has dragged our railways down for a generation."

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: "This £32 billion project will help end the north-south economic divide which has blighted the country for so long, as well as create tens of thousands of new jobs over the next 15 years.

"The development of the railways in the 19th century was the backbone of the Industrial Revolution. Let us hope HS2 will provide the catalyst that sparks a manufacturing revival in the Midlands and the north of England in the 21st century."

Wouter Schuitemaker, investment director at the Business Birmingham organisation, said: "The green light to HS2 enables Birmingham to remain a highly competitive destination for inward investment. Meeting the high-speed rail (HSR) capabilities of our international counterparts such as Frankfurt and cities across Japan and the USA will retain our status as a globally-connected city.

"Having taken such a positive step, it is vital that the Government remains decisive in the face of opposition. Delays to this crucial project will only slow our progress on the path to future growth.

"HS2 is not just beneficial for growth in Birmingham and the UK as a whole - it is essential."

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