Prime minister stresses importance new high speed rail line to the north of England in his Conservative party conference speech

David Cameron defended the government’s commitment to the high-speed rail line to the north of England in his speech to the Conservative party conference this week.

In a change of emphasis, the prime minister referred to the HS2 project as a “new North-South railway line”, which he said would resolve the rail capacity crunch facing the UK.

Focusing less on the speed of the new line and more on its capacity to bring benefits to the north of England, Cameron said: “This country has been too London-centric for far too long. That’s why we need a new North-South railway line. The fact is this: The West Coast mainline is almost full. We have to build a new railway… and the choice is between  another old-style Victorian one – or a high speed one.

“Just imagine if someone had said, no, we can’t build the M1, or the Severn Bridge, imagine how that would be hobbling our economy today.

“HS2 is about bringing North and South together in our national endeavour.”

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has used his Conservative party conference speech to launch a defence of the £43bn high-speed rail project.

He said he was listening to critics of the scheme and that he would “squeeze every penny of economic benefit” out of the line and “cut down on costs”.