WITH that decisive election result, it will presumably be full steam ahead for the HS2 high-speed rail project – but I think it’s time to think again.

Okay, before I go any further, I need to confess I have always been a vocal supporter of the £43bn scheme, to slash journey times between the North and London and unclog congested routes.

But I believe the facts have changed – which means there is now a better way to spend these billions to benefit long-suffering passengers in the North, rather than further indulge the capital city.

Moreover, the election result ensures another eye-watering squeeze on spending in the years to come, which means HS2 can no longer be the priority.

To be clear, HS2 – 225mph trains on a ‘Y-shaped’ network between London and both Leeds and Manchester – would deliver benefits to this region.

Durham City would be “less than two hours from Birmingham” and it would be easier to give Tees Valley a direct rail link to London, by freeing up space on existing lines.

When the project was born, a decade ago, it was the only offer on the table. Reject it and it was clear the Government would do a cost-benefit analysis….and spend the billions in London and the South instead.

But that’s all changed. Suddenly, there is real enthusiasm and momentum behind a rail revolution to deliver faster, reliable trains across the North, where they are needed more.

Most improvements would be between Liverpool and Hull, but the options include a faster Newcastle to Leeds route - taking just 50 minutes, instead of the current 87 minutes

However, the cost is enormous – perhaps matching the bill for HS2 – which is where my second “new fact” comes in, the lack of finance in the years to come.

Britain has just elected a Government on a hardline mission to balance the books – on both day-to-day and investment spending - in just four years.

The Conservatives seem determined to repeat the grave error of 2010, when billions were slashed from spending on new rail lines and the like, before a U-turn later in the parliament.

Under both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, billions more would have been available for such investment….but the country made its choice.

Therefore, it is delusional to believe there will be cash for both HS2 and Northern rail improvements for countless years to come, so a choice has to be made.

The HS2 scheme is currently bogged down in a Commons committee examining its route almost inch-by-inch. Construction is unlikely to start until 2018.

It was kicked back until after the completion of London’s Crossrail scheme, when £2bn a year will become available – proving my point that there’s only money for one massive rail project.

There’s no reason to abandon the HS2 Bill, which could be allowed to meander its course and then parked until austerity is finally over.

Meanwhile, the new Transport for the North group should speed up its work, put forward its priorities this year – which the Government should then put at the front of the queue for funds.

Perhaps this alternative will interest one of Labour’s leadership contenders, as they search for new ideas?