Northern high speed line 'could be completed before HS2'

Reports that a new high speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds could be completed before the High Speed Two (HS2) project feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Financial Times (subscription required) reports that the new link connecting Manchester and Leeds "could open before the proposed HS2 high-speed line linking London with the north, according to Treasury officials, as ministers consider speeding up the plan they are calling HS3". The newspaper says that officials have told it that "ministers could decide to give a higher priority to building a northern urban hub connected by HS3 to challenge the dominance of the capital".

The Telegraph reports that think-tank the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has said the proposed HS3 link would be "little more than a costly vanity project". The newspaper says that the IEA said it would be better to spend money on smaller schemes rather than "creating headline-grabbing policies".

A leader in the Independent says the HS3 scheme "may not necessarily be an economically sound investment". It adds: "The notion of conurbations from Newcastle to Leeds becoming some great single, interconnected northern entity has a hopelessly 1960s utopian feel to it, especially as these cities will remain rivals, none more implacable than Liverpool and Manchester. Spend money on the North by all means – and on other less politically promising regions too for that matter – but let’s not be railroaded into HS3".

A leader in the Telegraph says Britain has a "preference for drawing lines on a map over digging holes in the ground". It says: "Even as ministers talk up HS3, HS2 has yet to win full parliamentary approval – and will not take passengers until 2027. The new nuclear power stations are being built slowly, and at vast cost, while money is still wasted on offshore wind turbines. New airports and/or runways remain on the drawing board while the Davies Commission chews over the arguments and counter-arguments. Until we find a way to reduce the difficulties and delays that beset such major projects, we will continue to lag behind our rivals".

Writing in the Guardian, columnist Polly Toynbee says the "war on wind farms is the Tories’ latest sop to UKIP". Toynbee writes: "Not long ago [Prime Minister David] Cameron was the man fixing a wind turbine to his roof, promising 'the greenest government ever'. He knew then that wind power was popular – and it still is. So what’s changed? Two things: a hefty slice of his party has taken leave of its senses and is now speeding on high-octane ideology, regardless of all road signs pointing to public opinion, let alone national interest".

The Independent’s environment columnist, Michael McCarthy, says that if people love wildlife, they should "think twice before contemplating voting to leave the EU". McCarthy says that one of the EU’s "outstanding achievements has been the creation of a vast body of environmental law looking after the natural world, which is far tougher than any such legislation we have passed ourselves". He argues that if Britain was to leave the EU, these could be rescinded or watered down.

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