When the Victorians built the current railway system it required huge amounts of self-belief, vision and bravery - in part, no doubt, to overcome people who were opposed to it. But try now to imagine this country without it.

The proposed high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham is currently under consultation. I can understand and have huge sympathy for those people living along the route (including residents in Ruislip) who are deeply apprehensive about the impact it will have on their area and their lives. These are important concerns that are entirely reasonable, and it is important to take them into consideration.
 
What is unreasonable, however, is the misrepresentation and exaggeration of some of the key facts by certain opposition elements in order to scare local people into opposing the project. These are local people who, no doubt, do have some sympathy towards the need for a drastic overhaul of the current rail network and an understanding of the benefits that such a project would have on the country as a whole.

I want to start setting some of these facts straight in order to counter the mistruths and embellishments propagated by certain factions of the opposition. High-speed rail, like the Victorian railways before them, does require making some brave decisions.

However, as some of the facts below make clear, it is an essential investment in the growth and development of this country. A failure to build this now would have far-reaching consequences for future generations.

Myth: Opponents repeatedly claim the national high-speed network will cost each household £1,000 in taxes.
Fact: This is untrue. The overall costs of the proposed Y-shaped network (that includes the rail links beyond Birmingham up to Leeds and Manchester) will be offset by fare revenues, in turn reducing the cost of the proposed network from around £30bn to nearer £17bn. The '£1,000' figure also ignores the substantial returns to the economy that high-speed rail will generate, said to be approximately double its net costs. The estimated Government figure currently stands at £44bn, a figure criticised by leading specialists for being too conservative.
 
Myth: High-speed rail is not worth its cost.
Fact: Look at the success of investment in HS1. Original projections predicted that HS1 would unlock £500m of investment, but an independent report by Colin Buchanan issued in 2009 put the value of HS1 at almost £20bn Ð 40 times the original estimate. This 'regeneration effect' includes HS1 directly helping to deliver tens of thousands of homes and almost 100,000 jobs in the South East, particularly in Ashford, Kings Cross and Stratford. HSR will deliver similar results for the West Midlands, the North and Scotland – results that are long overdue, and much deserved.
 
Myth: Current and future overcrowding can be relieved by upgrading the existing network.
Fact: The overall demand for rail travel in the UK is booming. Long-distance rail travel has been growing at 5% a year, more than doubling between 1994/5 and 2009/10. This shows no sign of abating. The latest figures from the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) revealed that the last quarter saw the highest number of rail journeys made since the 1920s.
The existing rail network is struggling to cope with current demand – soon it will simply run out of space altogether. The alternative to HS2, Rail Package 2, does not release sufficient capacity and will only serve to keep things at bay in the short-term. For example, it will only release three to four trains from London Euston each hour compared with up to 14 on HS2. High-speed rail will take all high-speed services off existing tracks, vastly increasing capacity on existing lines. Commuter trains will be able to run more efficiently, improving services at stations that are not even on the high-speed network.
 
Myth: Money would be better spent on roads in the South or transport in London.
Fact: London has benefited from vast amounts of transport investment over the years and will continue to do so, but it is vital to start spreading investment more broadly. According to government statistics, GDP per person is one third higher in the South than the North. Unemployment in the North is nearly 2.5% higher compared to the South East. Expensive government schemes have failed so far to turn back these trends. But here is an investment that will boost regeneration in the regions. Improving economies in vast swathes of the country will hugely boost the UK's economic output overall and dramatically increase the wealth of the country as a whole.

Professor David Begg is the Director of the Campaign for High-Speed Rail and Chief Executive of Transport Times.

The Campaign have produced a 'myth busting' document, 10 Myths: Bringing balance to the debate about high-speed rail. This is available for download on our website, at http://www.campaignforhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/MYTH-HANDBOOK.pdf