Peter Vinden, managing director of Bolton-based chartered surveyors, The Vinden Partnership, talks to The Bolton News about his fears for the government's High Speed Rail plans

This time last year I spoke to Bolton News about the hot-button topic of high-speed rail. Though businesses in London and throughout the North West were voicing support for a big, fast, new connection between the region and the capital, others were slightly concerned about its £50bn price tag.

One year on, those concerns have only intensified, as costs for HS2 are projected to potentially double, while the conversation has widened to include an additional HS3 line. Despite fierce opposition from voters throughout the UK, the scheme still has the support of the two major political parties, and is an integral component in both leaders’ key campaigning policies.

So what’s the reason for such a disparity between leaders and the electorate on this issue? When Labour and the Conservatives are championing the new rail as the solution to everything from youth unemployment and stalling construction figures to the workforce migration from North to South, could it be that those opposed are being distracted by the financial costs and ignoring the long-term benefits?

In a word, no – not that spending £50bn on shortening a two-hour journey to one isn’t a valid concern for a region still bruised by the hard knocks of a recession.

The major issue for many is actually that HS2 is likely to prove the opposite of what it promises, and if anything will encourage the migration from the North West to the South in search of employment. The statement from the House of Lords recently gave new weight to this scepticism, as it said it was yet to hear a ‘convincing case’ that the project was capable of increasing railway capacity and rebalancing the North and South economies.

Politicians have responded with a number of other proposed benefits of the high-speed rail, with promises that a multitude of new apprenticeships would be directly linked to the scheme, delivering a huge boost for the construction sector.

But this only raises the question of why these same results for the younger generation and for the wider industry couldn’t be achieved through the improvement of local road and rail networks? Anyone packed onto a commuter line between Bolton, Manchester, Salford and any of their neighbouring towns could tell you the demand for infrastructure improvement and skilled workers is still there.

What we’re really seeing in the HS2 plan is increased support for huge construction firms and for London businesses at a time when the North West is more capable than ever of controlling its own destiny. Manchester’s recently devolved powers are a good indicator of this, as is the remarkable upsurge noted in some of the region’s key manufacturing, advanced materials and TMT industries.

With such progress in mind, providing quality inter-city links between the northern cities and regions would surely be a more profitable use of public finances.

Presenting HS2 as a preventative measure for employment and construction figures in the region is misguided at best, and deceptive at worst. A great deal has been progressed to stabilise the northern economy and encourage further growth over the last 12 months, with an exciting dialogue between its major cities and the promise of greater power, more schemes and better prospects for its people.

So with survey figures released last week revealing that just one in 100 respondents regard HS2 as a government spending priority, while 43% of those asked say it is last on their list, it might be time for our government to take note. North West talent is of little use to its regional economy if it’s on a one-hour commute to London everyday, so if we want to continue to promote job growth in the region then we need a greater focus on building it for ourselves