Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would build a high speed rail line from Birmingham to the North – not London – claiming it shows a fixation with the South East.
Speaking to the Post, Mr Corbyn said if he were prime minister, the proposed HS2 line would head in another direction, with infrastructure spending currently too focused around the capital.
However, he admitted that the project would be too advanced to change by the 2020 General Election.
Construction for the London to Birmingham route will begin in 2017 and be complete by 2026.
Mr Corbyn said he would still like to see more investment to reopen local rail lines, such as the Camp Hill Chords, and expand the rail network across the Midlands and North.
He said: “I expect by the next election HS2 will be under way and we will be dealing with the consequences of it.
“I have a view, which is probably too late now as the decision has been made on the southern section, that I would have started the other way round, from Birmingham going northwards to Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.
“I think we need to get a message out that we’re not directing all rail investment to London and the South East – and I say that as a London MP.
“I want to see much higher quality rail services in the Midlands and the North. There are still too many of the unreopened lines across the West Midlands and still too many people living with the consequences of short-sighted decisions in the 1960s.
“I grew up in Shropshire I understand this. I remember campaigns to keep lines open which are now being considered for reopening.
“I get the point about developing rail capacity as a whole, but if we don’t develop the local rail systems, have better tram systems and metro links and reopen a lot of branch lines then you end up with a lack of a feeder system into it.
“The South East has an intensive rail networks compared to the Midlands and the North, this has to change.”
Mr Corbyn’s stance on HS2 is important, with cross-party support key to progression.
He was speaking after it emerged the cost of the London-to-Birmingham leg of Britain’s proposed new railway was approaching £30 billion, compared to the £21.4 million predicted earlier.
However, it has become increasingly vital to growth plans in Greater Birmingham, as shown in the devolution deal agreed with the Government this week.
Reports claim the cost of the entire railway, including the trains and the phase two link from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, is likely to be more than £70 billion.
Mr Corbyn has been accused of a U-turn on HS2 after previously being critical of plans before becoming Labour leader.
He was speaking to the Post during one of his first official visits to Birmingham since becoming leader of the Labour Party, as he toured the EEF apprentice training centre in Perry Barr.
Mr Corbyn spoke with young apprentices and training centre bosses on issues around training, skills and manufacturing and urged more girls and young women to consider working in engineering and manufacturing.
“I want to see good quality apprenticeships which lead to good quality jobs afterwards.
“What we’ve seen at this EEF facility is top quality apprentices being trained with not just the top quality engineering skills they need to have but also social skills, life skills and communication skills.
“These are the people who are going to be developing and expanding manufacturing capability in the UK in the future.”
Asked about the Birmingham City Council leadership election he said that he was not taking sides, but would be following events closely.
He pointed out that the city council was facing huge budget pressures as a result of Government cuts.
He added: “I’m looking forward to meeting whoever is elected as the new leader of Birmingham City Council.
“I am interested, and absolutely I am concerned because this is the largest local authority in Europe and the largest housing authority.”