MSN poll: high-speed rail a 'waste of money'

Government claims about the benefits of a planned £32.7 billion high-speed rail link have not yet convinced a majority of MSN UK readers, according to a poll.

The government is pushing ahead with plans for the HS2 high-speed rail network, saying it will cut journey times and boost the economy.

The first phase of the project running between London and Birmingham is due to begin in 2016-17.

The findings of the pollMSN UK News

But an MSN UK poll has revealed that the government has still much work to do to persuade people of the benefits of the project.

More than 15,500 votes were cast in the survey, asking whether people think high-speed rail is a waste of money.

Some 61% of those taking part agreed with the question, saying high-speed rail was unnecessary and will damage the environment.

But 39% backed high-speed rail, saying it will create jobs and improve public transport.

Labour MP Kevan Jones, who represents North Durham in north-east England, told MSN UK News that there were big questions about the regional benefits of the HS2 project.

“I wouldn’t say it will damage the environment, but I think there are big questions about its effectiveness in terms of benefitting the north-east economy. I think there will be very few benefits for the north-east.”

But if the scheme went ahead, Mr Jones said it would be important to improve capacity on the east coast rail line, linking London with north-east England and Scotland.

The findings of the poll come after a Whitehall spending watchdog said that the HS2 scheme has an estimated £3.3 billion funding gap.

In a report, the National Audit Office (NAO) said it was not clear how the scheme would deliver and rebalance economic growth.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin rejected the NAO’s core conclusion, saying it depended too much on “out-of-date analysis”.

“The case for HS2 is clear. Without it the key rail routes connecting London, the Midlands and northern England will be overwhelmed.

"HS2 will provide the capacity needed in a way that will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds' worth of economic benefits,” said Mr McLoughlin.

On Bing: more about the HS2 high-speed rail project