A new high-speed rail (HSR) line would benefit only a handful of well-off travellers but cost the taxpayer billions, the RAC Foundation has claimed.
Ministers are considering a report by a High Speed 2 to look at a London-Birmingham high speed line, with possible extensions to Scotland. A White Paper is expected on high speed rail plans next month
However, the RAC foundation said this would swallow-up cash that was much needed by other transport schemes.
RAC foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister, speaking at a transport conference in London, said: “Railways are generally used by the rich and a high-speed line between London and Scotland is unlikely to be any exception.
“As a proportion of their disposable income, the wealthy spend most on train travel. But when it comes to car-owning households - rich or poor - they all shell out roughly the same in percentage terms.
“By diverting funding - for both capital and maintenance projects - away from the road network, there is the very real risk that the less well-off will be hardest hit, as they are the ones who are least likely to travel by train and so will have to put up with increasing congestion and pothole-strewn highways.
“For most of the people, most of the time, the car is public transport, and Government policy and spending needs to reflect this.
“It is absolutely correct that long-term thinking needs to be at the heart of transport planning to create future travel capacity; however this has to be based on the reality of people’s lives.
“When over 90% of all passenger travel takes place on the roads it seems wrong that so much political attention is being focused on transport services for the elite, especially at a time when funds are so desperately needed to repair the roads damaged by the awful winter weather,” he said.