ANDY Boddington has ruffled feathers in the Liberal Democrat establishment.

The Shropshire councillor for Ludlow North says that his party is wrong to support the HS2 rail project.

This comes in a week when the Government has confirmed that the high speed rail link between London and Birmingham will definitely go-ahead.

There is more doubt about the second phase to the north of England.

“The report from the National Audit Office contained no surprises,” said Mr Boddington.

“But it was still devastating for High Speed 2.

“The complexity of the project was underestimated. Costs are ballooning. Value for money is deflating. The political uncertainty surrounding the project, especially the northern sections, will load more costs. It is ‘impossible to estimate with certainty’ how much HS2 will eventually cost, the auditors conclude. But it will be north of £100bn.

“That dwarfs into insignificance the cost of a third runway at Heathrow.”

But Mr Boddington believes that the cost is not the main problem.

“HS2 is environmentally destructive,” he added.

“Far from being green, it will destroy centuries old biodiverse landscapes. It will take a century for the scheme to pay back the carbon and environmental costs of construction.”

He is calling on the leadership of his party to drop their support for the project.

“The Lib Dem leadership should withdraw support for HS2 and declare it dead in a ditch,” said Mr Boddington.

“The Woodland Trust said HS2 will destroy or irreparably damage five internationally protected wildlife sites, 693 local wildlife sites, 108 ancient woodlands and 33 sites of special scientific interest.

“All that HS2 can offer in compensation is tens of thousands of saplings that won’t be capable of supporting a biodiverse environment for decades.

“We need economic heartlands that work for their region.”

He said that this does not have to involve mega projects promoted by institutions like the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

“We need a sensible incremental approach to upgrading our existing rail network,” Mr Boddington added.

“Reopening lines. New routes and links. Longer trains with longer platforms. Classy rail stations. Electrified lines. Low carbon trains running on batteries and hydrogen. Bus linking with rail stations at the right times. That won’t happen overnight.

“It will be costly. But it will be better value for our environment and economy than HS2. It will push technological innovation as engineers and scientists grapple with the challenges of bringing a post-Beeching network into the 21st century.”