HS2 Alternative 'Will Cause Years Of Gridlock'
Railway services between the north and south of England will be crippled by 14 years of weekend closures if HS2 is abandoned for an alternative, ministers will claim this week.
The warning will be part of a Coalition "business case" for the high-speed rail link published on Tuesday in a bid to fight off critics of the increasingly controversial project.
It will paint a picture of chaos for commuters if other investments are chosen instead of HS2.
The closest alternative would require 2,770 weekend closures - equivalent to 144,000 hours - on the East Coast Mainline, Midland Mainline and West Coast Mainline, the report will say.
That will increase a typical journey from London to Leeds by two hours and 10 minutes to more than four-and-a-half hours overall.
The Government has drawn the evidence from a study by Network Rail and transport consultant Atkins. It also finds that houses and businesses would have to be demolished.
A Government source said: "We need to do something because our railways are nearly full but the alternative to HS2 is a patch and mend job that would cause 14 years of gridlock, hellish journeys and rail replacement buses.
"The three main routes to the north would be crippled and the economy would be damaged."
The strong language is a response to heavy criticism of HS2 - including from the Labour Party which is no longer promising to support the project.
The party wants to introduce a "cancellation trigger" to the legislation, forcing the Government to reveal if total costs rise about £50bn. Ministers may support the amendment.
Labour's role is seen as key after David Cameron admitted that "multi-year, multi-parliament infrastructure projects ? can't go ahead without all-party support".