Beam me up, Mili! Ed's new guru says we don't need High Speed Rail because we can hold meetings as HOLOGRAMS
- Lord Mitchell says he no longer backs £42billion project
- Urges ministers to look to the future and imagine life-like holograms
- Was only appointed Ed Miliband's business ambassador yesterday
- Lord Mitchell lists 'fiddling with computers' in his interests in Who's Who
- Ex-rail minister Tom Harris says budget was set 'on back of a fag packet'
- Line will link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds
Face of the future: Labour's Lord Mitchell claimed that instead of travelling across the country for meetings, people could talk to lifelike holograms, like this one of singer Paloma Faith launched last year
A high speed rail line linking London to the north will be rendered unnecessary within 20 years because meetings will be held between holograms, Ed Miliband's new business guru claimed today.
Lord Mitchell said he 'simply doesn't get the logic' of spending £40billion on the project when by 2033 it will be possible to talk to a 'perfect hologram of a person half way around the world sitting on a chair in front of us'.
He became the latest senior Labour figure to speak out against HS2, after a former rail minister admitted the original price tag was ‘written on the back of a fag packet’.
The latest intervention further erodes the cross-party consensus on the plan, which will take decades to build.
The project ran into trouble when the government admitted recently that the bill had soared by £10billion to £42.6billion.
Lord Mitchell was only named by Mr Miliband as a business ambassador and adviser on enterprise last night.
But speaking in the House of Lords today he demolished the case for Labour's flagship pledge to build the HS2.
The Labour party manifesto in 2010 insisted a new high speed rail line linking north and south was 'at the heart of our growth plan'.
It promised journey times will be 'slashed' and more capacity would be freed up for freight and commuter services.
But Lord Mitchell said: 'I simply don't get the logic of spending £40 billion plus just to enable people to get from Birmingham to London 23 minutes earlier and Manchester to London 50 minutes earlier - for them then to be stuck in monster traffic jams on the Euston Road.'
By the time the line is built holograms will be so good, people will struggle to spot a real person, he claimed.
Hi-tech: The quality of holograms has improved in recent years, since this one by artist Chris Levine in 2005
Embarrassment: Lord Mitchell's comments are at odds with Labour leader Ed Miliband's support for the HS2 project
The former chairman of United Leasing Ltd, who lists 'fiddling with computers' in his interests in Who's Who, urged ministers to imagine what the world would be like in 20 years' time when HS2 is scheduled to be completed.
Lord Mitchell said: 'In 2033 can we imagine a technology which could transmit a perfect hologram of a person half way around the world sitting on a chair in front of us?
'A hologram where you are hard pushed to tell the real from the image.
If this and thousands of other technologies that are bubbling away come to pass, who in their right mind would journey to a business meeting starting early in the day and getting home late at night?
'It's why we should always project technology forward and factor this into all mega infrastructure decisions.'
Realistic: Lord Mitchell said that in 20 years people will not be able to tell the difference between a real person and a hologram
But the hi-tech vision of the future was dismissed by government spokesman Lord Newby, who insisted there could be no substitute for meeting face to face.
Lord Newby added: 'While I am sure a hologram of myself in front of Birmingham City Council or a head teacher would have been mightily impressive, I simply don't believe that at any point in the foreseeable future we are going to do without transport.'
However Lord Mitchell is just the latest senior Labour figure to signal a collapse in support for the project.
Former Business Secretary Lord Mandelson exploded the cross-party agreement earlier this month when he admitted it risked becoming an 'expensive mistake'.
Last night Tom Harris, a rail minister in Gordon Brown's government, said support for it was now on the rocks.
‘The original cost for HS2 was written on the back of a fag packet,’ he told BBC2’s Newsnight.
‘My own party is strongly in favour of it. I was until relatively recently. I would suspect that the whole of the House of Commons would vote at the moment to keep going ahead.
‘But I think the more that people talk about this… it is almost like a scepticism that dare not speak its name up until now.’
He said Lord Mandelson’s intervention in a newspaper article earlier this month was ‘very, very good’ and had ‘opened up a whole debate’.
Mr Harries added: ‘I think more and more people are listening to those who are saying this might not be a great idea.
‘Austerity is going to be with us for a very long time.
‘Do we really want to tell our constituents or taxpayers that we are spending £50billion of their money on a train line that really doesn’t need to be built and that money could spent in any number of areas far more effectively.’
Warning: Former Labour rail minister Tom Harris said the business case for HS2 had been 'written on the back of a fag packet' while Lord Mandelson now warned it could damage the north of England
Row: Further Labour admissions of doubts about HS2 are certain to be seized on by opponents of the project that it should not go ahead
Halt: Labour's Lord Mandelson now says his party was wrong to offer fulsome backing to the high speed rail project linking London and the north
Lord Mandelson said Labour's plans were based on an estimated cost of £30 billion and on a central assumption - that its construction would spread growth across the country - which was ‘neither quantified nor proved’.
But at the time Lib Dem transport minister Norman Baker hit back: ‘'It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs; be a major boost to our economy, especially in the North of England; and will help us shift to the clean, green economy of the future.
'More and more people are using the rail network every year so we desperately need more North-South capacity - unlike Peter Mandelson we can't all hop on a private jet.'