'Skint' UK can't afford HS2: Farage

The Oxford Times: Nigel Farage said the UK does not have the money to press ahead with HS2 Nigel Farage said the UK does not have the money to press ahead with HS2

The country is "skint" and can not afford the cost of the HS2 national high-speed rail link, Ukip leader Nigel Farage has said.

The MEP said his party had "more common sense" than their rivals in opposing the estimated £50 billion project as he called for the upgrade of existing railway lines instead.

Mr Farage was speaking as he visited the Kings Arms pub in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, one of the towns directly affected by the proposed HS2 routes, for the start of Ukip's European parliamentary election campaign.

He said: "Some of the groups that have been protesting against HS2 are beginning to realise that lobbying the conventional two big parties, hoping perhaps for legal recourse in the courts, isn't going to work.

"There's the beginning of a feeling here that the only way HS2 will be stopped is if the parties that hold these seats up and down the line, think they're going to lose them to Ukip in 2015.

He added: "Why is it that Ukip takes a stance against the other parties on virtually everything?

"Perhaps because we have a bit more common sense than they do, perhaps because we recognise that the country's skint and we simply can't afford to spend £50 billion on a project that will only benefit a small percentage of travelling customers in this country.

"The alternative would be upgrading the lines."

The Government has vowed to "press ahead" with HS2 after winning a key legal victory in the Supreme Court this week.

The highest court in the land unanimously dismissed accusations by objectors that the Government was "cutting corners" to push the project through Parliament, in breach of European environmental laws.

Objectors, including a number of local authorities along the route and action groups and residents' associations opposed to the link, are now planning to take their case to Europe, threatening more delays.

Mr Farage said HS2 remained an "enormous" issue in Amersham, before claiming Ukip was "bullish" and "optimistic" about their prospects for May's European elections.

"We really think that these European elections give people an opportunity to express their views about something that they've been denied a say on for far too long," he said.

HS2 spokesman Ben Ruse said: "With the return on investment, jobs, business opportunities, skills and training HS2 presents, it is very much a case of 'can we afford not to'. It simply isn't a case of 'make do and mend'."

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