A TOP rail official admitted today a planned high speed railway line through Buckinghamshire is unlikely to have any major benefits to the county.

Sir Brian Briscoe, chairman of HS2 Ltd – the company behind plans to build a line through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – said at a meeting in Aylesbury this morning it would be difficult for the project to “outweigh the environmental impact” on the county.

In response county MP John Bercow said: “The unmistakeable message is there ain't any single identifiable benefit.”

Sir Brian was among the guest speakers at a specially-arranged HS2 summit meeting at Aylesbury Vale District Council's chamber today – the second meeting to have been held there this year.

He was challenged to give a benefit that HS2 would bring to the county by Aylesbury Vale District Councillor Sue Polhill.

Sir Brian said: “That's a really challenging question. One benefit for parts of Buckinghamshire will be local rail services will be capable of carrying more services, which may not be the case if there isn't additional rail capacity.

“It's difficult to show an economic benefit which will outweigh the environmental impact on Buckinghamshire, but if ministers think this will create economic growth throughout the UK, that will be of benefit to the nation.

“You have to make a choice between the economic growth throughout the country and balance it against local issues.”

He added if the government decided the project was in the national interest efforts would be made to minimise the environmental impact.

And he added: “We need to have a proper public debate about this to decide if this goes ahead.”

Mr Bercow, MP for Buckingham, told him: “Your observation it would be difficult to identify a particular benefit to Bucks was quite the biggest understatement you've made in public life.”

Sir Brian fielded questions from councillors and environmental campaigners during today's meeting alongside Philip Graham, the deputy director of high speed rail for the Department for Transport.

He encouraged county residents to make their voices heard during the consultation period for the plans, scheduled for early next year.

He said: “You should look to get a good deal for Buckinghamshire. No one will thank you for a railway line that doesn't work.”

Speaking after the meeting, the county council's cabinet member for transport, Cllr Val Letheren, said: “This summit reinforces our commitment to a united fight against HS2, which as we have seen today is based on weak, unquantified and unquantifiable arguments.

“I very much welcome the support we've had today from our MPs, who I know will take our argument further. In the meantime, our battle carries on renewed.”