HS2 is still “the only option” if the UK is to keep pace with other countries in Europe according to a Birmingham business leader.

Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, spoke out in defence of HS2 after speculation mounted that the Government’s enthusiasm for the ambitious project was waning.

The speculation was fuelled by a report in The Spectator which said senior ministers were now backing away from it.

It quoted an unmanned Government minister who said: the project was “effectively dead” and was only being sustained by Prime Minister David Cameron’s backing.

The report came in the wake of similar claims on the influential Conservative Home blog and other media claims that the HS2 business case did not stand up.

But Mr Blackett said he believed HS2 continued to be the only way to provide the railway capacity and infrastructure the UK economy will need in the future.

He said: “Our competitors are surging ahead and investing in their railways because they recognise their importance in boosting regional economies and ensuring businesses can access markets.

“We cannot allow our future prosperity and growth to be derailed by a minority of vocal opponents in the south.”

Mr Blackett added: “Cities are the natural drivers of growth and job creation and as such people naturally flock to them.

“We must link our engines of growth up with a fast, direct and reliable railway network - HS2.

“If we continue to muddle along we must accept that our economy will follow suit and watch as we are out paced by the dynamic economies that had the foresight to invest in high speed rail.”

Welcoming the latest speculation Stop HS2 Campaign coordinator Joe Rukin said: “It may be a bit early to start hanging up the bunting just yet, but it is becoming increasingly clear that HS2 is running out of supporters because the case for it has simply been made up around the idea that those three words ‘high speed rail’ sound like they must be a good idea.

“It is getting clearer and clearer that we have always been right and there is no business case, not environmental case and clearly no money to pay for HS2.

“We have been saying for over two years that the entire business case for HS2 is based on false assumptions.”