Tory MPs blast HS2 rail link plans

David Cameron is facing a backlash from Conservative MPs opposed to the HS2 high-speed rail link as the Government published draft plans to extend the line to the north of England.

The Prime Minister said extending the already-planned London to Birmingham HS2 line as far as Manchester and Leeds would "spread wealth and prosperity" around the country.

But campaigners denounced the scheme as "fundamentally flawed" and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin faced anger from senior backbenchers as he outlined the preferred route in the House of Commons.

Labour said it was a "major error" to put off a decision on a proposed spur to Heathrow pending the results of Sir Howard Davies' review of future airport capacity, which is not due to give its final report until the summer of 2015.

Officials say the £32.7 billion project will create at least 100,000 jobs and would cut the journey time from Manchester to Birmingham to 41 minutes, and from Manchester to London to one hour eight minutes - almost half the present times.

The move was widely welcomed by businesses, which called on the Government to follow it up with funding for further infrastructure links within the regions.

But Conservative vice-chairman Michael Fabricant, whose Lichfield constituency lies on the proposed route, told Mr McLoughlin: "This route plunges through rural Britain, rural Staffordshire and should use existing transport corridors. It blights the environment, homes and lives."

Tory former Cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan said construction should begin in northern England, warning that "thousands of people will now be faced with the blight and uncertainty" which was affecting her own Chesham and Amersham seat.

The Conservative MP for North-West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen, indicated he was likely to rebel when plans eventually go before the Commons.

Penny Gaines, who chairs the Stop HS2 campaign, warned that high-speed rail projects overseas have "sucked jobs to the capital" rather than benefiting regional economies.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport(Department for Transport)