Birmingham MP Roger Godsiff has broken ranks with colleagues to come out against plans for a new high speed rail line linking the West Midlands with London and the north.
Although the proposed 225mph line has sparked opposition in parts of the West Midlands, it has received near unanimous backing from councillors, MPs and business leaders in Birmingham itself.
But Mr Godsiff (Lab Hall Green) said the money would be better spent on improving local transport services within Birmingham, for example by expanding the Metro light rail system, creating a new rapid transit system or even building a new underground rail line.
He made the comments as campaigners against the proposed line, known as High Speed Two or HS2, handed in a petition with more then 108,000 signatures to Downing Street.
It urges the Government to scrap the proposal, which will cost £32 billion once it is extended north to Leeds and Manchester. Ministers have accused critics in rural areas where the line will be built of being “nimbys” looking after their own back yards, but Mr Godsiff said the British countryside belonged to everyone.
Mr Godsiff said: “HS2 will allow some businessmen and women to get to London a bit quicker, and to do this it will cut through whole swathes of the country which belong to all of us, not just the people who live there.
“If we have £32 billion to spend then I think there are better ways of doing it than this.
“A rapid transit system in Birmingham, or an underground, would be far more valuable to the people of the city.
“Business leaders are backing HS2 but they will be the only ones who can afford the fares.
“The economic arguments for it don’t stack up and I think many people who are struggling to make ends meet at the moment will feel there are better ways the government can spend billions of pounds.”
West Midlands transport authority Centro argues the planned high speed line, which includes a major new railway station in Birmingham city centre and a second station near the NEC, could create 22,000 new jobs in the region and increase average salaries in the region by £300.
But critics claim the economic advantages have been greatly exaggerated.
The Commons Transport Committee is considering the case for and against HS2, and the Government is expected to announce the findings of an official consultation into the line before Christmas.
MPs delivering the petition to Downing Street included Chris White (Con Warwick & Leamington) and Dan Byles (Con North Warwickshire & Bedworth).
Mr White said: “This petition is a sign of the public’s desire for a full and open debate on High Speed Rail 2.
“The sheer cost of the project, which could be around £51 million per constituency, necessitates a real discussion on the merits of the scheme based on firm evidence.
“I have made clear my position – that I do not believe High Speed Rail would be good for our community environmentally, socially or economically and I will be continuing to lobby the Government to reconsider this policy.”