NIGEL FARAGE spelled out his implacable opposition to the proposed HS2 rail link between London and the north during his visit to the region on Monday.

The Brexit Party leader’s comments came as a draft of the Government’s review of the controversial high speed line were leaked, showing the cost has now risen to £88bn – but that it still provided value for money. The first stage of the line, from London to Birmingham, is now not going to be complete by 2031 with the second stage to Leeds and Manchester not ready by 2040.

However, the review, commissioned by Boris Johnson and carried out by the former chair of HS2 Douglas Oakervee, concludes that construction of the line should go ahead.

At a rally at Sedgefield racecourse, Mr Farage told The Northern Echo: “I am totally opposed to HS2, it serves just a small number of people between London and Manchester.

“I am totally in favour of other projects like HS3 – a sensible railway across much of the north of England from east to west which is completely absent, as an M62er like me knows. If you don’t build HS2 you can bring a much bigger benefit to much wider number of people across a much larger part of the country.”

However Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, the business body chaired by former Conservative chancellor George Osborne, said Mr Farage was rejecting a proposal that would help close the north/south divide.

In a letter to Mr Farage, he said: “I am sure many northern business people, large and small, could understand that you may have concerns about exactly how HS2 is being built, that capacity is more important than speed.

“However, our railways are struggling to cope with the large numbers of commuters and freight we need to grow our economy, and a new line from Manchester to Birmingham, as well as down to the Midlands from Leeds and Sheffield, would unlock this capacity by moving services between these cities off the current network, benefiting towns which can then have better links to nearby cities as well as with each other, such as for Doncaster with city to city trains on the current East Coast mainline reduced.”

Mr Farage also said that targeting investment at the regions was a Brexit Party policy that had been taken up by the Conservative and Labour parties. “We kicked regional investment off in a big, big way, and in six months we have shifted the debate,” he said.

“Regional investment means investing in business, industries and jobs and that doesn’t have to come from the public sector, it can come from the private sector too.”

He denied Labour claims that his favoured “clean-break Brexit” would damage jobs, with global companies like Nissan being forced out.

He said: “The Labour hierarchy is obsessed with Europe. Overseas trade is of course vital here, but 85 per cent of global GDP is outside the EU, and the EU is going down one per cent each year.”

At the rally, The Brexit Party’s chairman, Richard Tice, who is standing in Hartlepool as the party concentrates on Labour leave-voting seats, said: “It pains me as a I walk down the streets in Hartlepool to see shop after shop closed down.

“There should be zero business rates outside the M25 so these shops and independent traders will actually have a chance, paid for by a small online sales tax.”