PUBLIC opposition to the Government’s £56 billion high speed rail scheme significantly outweighs support in most of the country.
An ORB survey for The Sunday Telegraph found that 38 per cent of people oppose the scheme, with only 26 per cent in favour.
If HS2 were to be scrapped, 86 per cent said the money should go to the NHS. Only in the North West, which stands to benefit from the line, did support outweigh opposition, and even then only by 2 per cent.
The findings come as the project faces various setbacks amid growing concerns about its overall cost. Last week it was reported that the legislation needed to trigger the second section of the line, to Manchester and Leeds, had been pushed back to 2020. Several ministers have privately expressed their concerns and backbenchers are to call for a full review in a Commons debate on Wednesday, led by Bill Cash, the veteran Tory MP.
Last night Cheryl Gillan MP, who campaigned against HS2, said: “Is it right that such large capital expenditure should have only a quarter of people supporting it?
“It is a deeply unpopular project that has not caught the imagination of the country in any way. I fundamentally question whether HS2 is good value for money and this suggests taxpayers may be of the same view. People want to spend money on the health service, which benefits everyone, rather than something like HS2, which will benefit only a few.”
Last week ORB polled 2,100 people on their support for HS2. Of those, 17 per cent said they were somewhat opposed to the scheme while 21 per cent said they were strongly opposed.
Only 8 per cent strongly supported HS2, with 18 per cent saying they somewhat supported it. In Wales, 12 per cent were in favour while 52 per cent were against.
Last month David Lidington, Theresa May’s de facto deputy, criticised the “early, abysmal communications” at HS2 Ltd, the government-sponsored body behind the scheme, warning “there is still some way to go before there is a real culture of being open with residents about the development of detailed plans”.
Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, writing in The Sunday Telegraph last month, said an extra £43 billion was needed to “make the most” of HS2 by addressing the “inadequate” transport links passengers would face at both ends of their journey.
A spokesman for HS2 said: “As Birmingham is already demonstrating, HS2 will transform and rebalance the British economy. By making it easier to travel between and within the Midlands and the North, as well as to Scotland and London, HS2 will drive re-generation. In the process HS2 will also drive the economy, providing jobs and developing new skills. Already 6,000 people are employed either directly or indirectly by HS2.”