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HS2 will be 'engine for growth'

Chancellor George Osborne has said HS2 will be an "engine for growth" in the North and Midlands, creating tens of thousands of jobs across the country.

He acknowledged widespread opposition to the line from communities along its route which face "very difficult" disruption to their lives, but said the economic benefits were "pretty compelling".

Mr Osborne said: "I think it is the engine for growth in the North and the Midlands of this country. I think it is going to create tens of thousands of jobs in Manchester and across our great cities.

"In the end, as a country, you have got to make those long-term choices. If our predecessors hadn't decided to build the railways in the Victorian times or the motorways in the middle part of the 20th century, then we wouldn't have those things today.

"So you've got to commit to these projects, even though they take many years and, yes, they are expensive, but they are also an investment in the economy that will then create the money to enable us to afford our NHS and our education system and so on."

Mr Osborne acknowledged that the HS2 line was "controversial" with communities along the route, and pointed out that it will go through his own Tatton constituency in Cheshire.

"It is a controversial decision, because building anything in this country there are going to be people who object to it," he said.

"But I think the economic benefits to all communities are pretty compelling - whether it's the fact that there's going to be a station in the East Midlands or the fact we are going to have stations at Manchester airport and a rail hub in Crewe... and also eight of our 10 largest cities in Britain are going to be connected.

"And it's not just about cutting journey times - although it does cut in half the journey time from Manchester to London - it's also about the new stations, the prosperity that's going to come, the jobs that are going to be created around this infrastructure."

Mr Osborne accepted that the economic benefit would not "come overnight", but said: "If you use the argument 'It's not going to be ready for years', you'd never do anything. In fact, for too long, Britain has not undertaken these big projects because politicians like me say it's not going to help me over the next year or two.

"Actually, this is going to help our country over the next 15-20 years and, if we don't take the decision now, it will be left to someone else to make that decision in 20 years' time."

Mr Osborne agreed it would be "very difficult" for households close to the proposed rail line, but said the Government had chosen a route to cause "the minimum disruption".

The authorities will "work with those communities" to ensure that the line goes through tunnels where possible, and there will be "a very generous compensation scheme", he said.

"In the end it's a choice - are we going to invest in this country's future? Are we serious about winning that global race? Are we serious about doing the things we need to provide careers and jobs for our kids? Or are we just going to sit here and let this country fall behind?

"I'm determined that's not going to happen on my watch."

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