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Osborne plays down HS2 cost fears
CHANCELLOR George Osborne insists the controversial HS2 railway project will be produced under budget, despite fears over spiralling costs.
Mr Osborne said the scheme will not exceed the £42billion set aside for construction of the planned line, in an interview where he added he was 'passionate' about HS2.
But campaigners hit back after his appearance on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, saying it is 'extraordinary' he considers it a good budget.
The £42billion budget includes contingency funds as a back-up, but does not include the cost of rolling stock for the planned line.
Speaking on Sunday's show, Mr Osborne said: "We have set the budget for £42billion for the construction costs. That includes, by the way, a big contingency.
"As we demonstrated with the Olympic Games, we can deliver these big projects actually sometimes under budget.
"I think we have got a good budget, which has got a very big contingency in it, we've set a budget.
"I'm passionate about this project because time and again, we have this debate in our country about how we're going to bring the gap between north and south together, about how we're going to make sure that our growth is not just based on the City of London.
"High Speed 2 is about changing the economic geography of this country, making sure the North and the Midlands benefit from the recovery as well."
A recent report from the Institute of Economic Affairs suggested the cost of the project, which would see a new high speed railway line cut through the heart of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, could double to £80billion.
And last week the Institute of Directors dismissed the scheme as "a grand folly", saying its members were not in favour.
Independent Great Missenden councillor Seb Berry said this week: "It wasn't that long ago that the Prime Minister was telling the country there is no magic money tree. It is extraordinary that at a time of austerity the Chancellor thinks that £50 billion is a good budget for HS2.
George Osborne's decision to front a Ministerial campaign to 'sell' HS2 also confirms that the national leadership of the Conservative party remains hell-bent on smashing HS2 through, regardless of the environmental and community consequences for its heartland Parliamentary seats.
"But they are making a very big mistake indeed in assuming that ramming HS2 down the throats of local voters will have no impact on their route 'safe' seats at the 2015 election."
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