THE Government’s new deputy chief whip has questioned the need for the high-speed railway which would rip through mid Cheshire.

Just a day after her promotion in Westminster, Esther McVey, MP for Tatton, raised concerns about the HS2 project at a public meeting in Rudheath last Friday.

In front of an audience of residents and alongside representatives from HS2 Ltd and Mid Cheshire Against HS2, she challenged the purpose of the proposed railway from London to Manchester – which is expected to open in 15 years’ time.

She said: “When I look at what HS2 is about I ask what problem is it trying to solve?

“We’ve been told it is about improving public health, about improving speed, about improving capacity.

“What exactly is the problem we are solving with HS2? And what might have seemed like the right solution in 2010 [when the scheme was announced] – is that still the right solution in 2030?

“Communication, technology, all these things are changing. Are people still wanting to move across the country, north to south?

“We need services across the north and we don’t want that broken down by high-speed railway to London, we need services across the north to come first.”

The completed HS2 line – which will be built in phases between London and Birmingham, then north to Crewe, and finally through mid Cheshire to Manchester – is expected to cost £56 billion.

But a report commissioned by the Department for Transport and released in July claimed the final cost could be as high as £111 billion.

The Government has so far insisted HS2 will be delivered on budget, but Ms McVey suggested the business case should be looked at again.

“We need to look at the business case again, the cost we believe might now be more than £100 billion,” she said.

“There might be a business case for HS2 at £56 billion, but at any cost? I don’t think so.

“We’ve asked HS2 ‘can you do it?’ We’ve written them a blank cheque and of course they will tell you they can do it if you are writing them a blank cheque.”

Ms McVey added that the Government ‘needs to take the knowledge from people who have lived here a long time’ when working out the cost of routing the line through mid Cheshire’s land – in light of the issues surrounding the salt mine industry highlighted by Dr Ros Todhunter, geologist and member of Mid Cheshire Against HS2.

John Atkinson, a HS2 Ltd representative who spoke at the meeting, admitted the Phase 2b route could yet change if the costs of delivering the service through mid Cheshire are too high.

“We may have to question whether looking into another route would present better value,” he said.

“That situation may transpire but we don’t know at this stage. We want to make this work.

“This is a question for governments and ministers. From where we are at the moment it’s our job to do what we can to prevent it getting into that situation.”