EXPERTS have cast doubt on the Prime Minister’s prediction that a new rail line will boost Bolton business.

The Government announced plans last week to extend the proposed London to Birmingham HS2 train line as far as Manchester by 2032 to cut journey times.

But transport experts claim there is little evidence that the North will benefit and say the cash could be spent on other projects.

New figures from Virgin Trains show two-thirds of people who buy return tickets for the Manchester and London line start their journey in London. Critics of the new £32.7 billion project believe that shows the people who will benefit from it already live in the capital.

Professor John Tomaney, of the School of Planning at University College London, has researched the effect of high-speed lines across the world. He said: “The argument that high-speed rail can reshape economic geography has been used in several countries around the world such as France, Spain, South Korea. But in practice, there is very little evidence that building a high speed rail line heals north-south divides.”

Professor Paul Salveson, a transport expert based at the University of Huddersfield, said: “The impact on the north's economy, whatever it might be, will not be felt for decades.

“HS2 is a very expensive solution, and for a fraction of the cost we could re-open the former Peak mainline from Manchester to Derby and upgrade the route to St Pancras.”

However, others argued Bolton will benefit.

Bolton Council’s development director Keith Davies said: “This level of investment in the Greater Manchester area is something that should be welcomed, and we will be working with partners in Greater Manchester to maximise the economic benefit that the construction of the line will bring. It will improve our position in relation to the UK and the European economies.”

Emma Antrobus, transport policymaker for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “HS2 will provide an economic benefit to the whole of the region, including towns like Bolton, through the creation of jobs and increased productivity.”