A RAIL boss has recommended HS2 shouldn't be connected to an existing high speed railway line to Europe - days after plans for a new garden city next to it were announced.
Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Ltd, this week questioned the value of spending £700million on connecting the planned railway line north with HS1 at Euston in a report on the multi billion pound project.
Instead his priority is working to improve connections to cities in the north and said in his report HS2 Plus, which was released on Monday, the planned London to Birmingham line should be extended on to Crewe as part of the first phase of construction.
But the day before Sir David's report was published, Chancellor George Osborne revealed plans for a new 15,000-home garden city at Ebbsfleet in Kent - which has a major international railway station on HS1 that provides services on to the Channel Tunnel.
Critics of HS2 said this was proof the new line would not generate further economic growth away from London and would instead lead to an increasing number of commuters wanting to get into the capital.
The Stop HS2 campaign group said the proposals to ditch the link-up did nothing to improve the north's connectivity with Europe.
Campaign manager Joe Rukin said: "Sir David Higgins wants to say that high speed rail brings economic benefits, but the announcement that Ebbsfleet will now be home to a new dormatory suburb of London, because high speed rail there failed to deliver the economic growth which was promised, should be a warning to everyone thinking HS2 will be good for local economies.
"The evidence is clear, all HS2 will do is drag more economic activity to London. All the other places which think new HS2 stations will be a boon should realise, all HS2 will do is increase the London commuter belt."
Group chairman Penny Gaines added: "Every attempt to find cost savings in HS2 has either resulted in upping the budget for the project, or dropping major parts of the project.
"Higgins has left in the £10billion extra contingency that was added to the HS2 budget last year. Politicians are saying that they can’t increase the costs of HS2, but the budget is already spiralling out of control."
Sir David said in his report: "If done right, HS2 can provide an answer that does stand the test of time, and addresses the issues of congestion in the south and lack of connectivity in the north.
"The cost and impact have to be recognised and acknowledged, but so too do the cost and impact of doing nothing. Without HS2, the people of this country will continue to face the failures of our transport system on a daily basis. With it, they will begin to see a strategic answer that can deliver real benefits within the foreseeable future."
Dr Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, welcomed the recommendations in the report.
He said: "HS2 is a vital project for increasing transport capacity and improving connectivity in the north. A properly integrated and efficient transport system is critical to creating a balanced economy and accelerating the construction of the northern section of the project, as Higgins suggests, would mean we could help bridge the north-south economic divide more quickly."