By Melissa Kite
When David Cameron decided to back Labour plans for a high speed rail link through the English countryside he would have been wise to study the route.
If he had taken a closer look at the proposed line from London to Birmingham, called HS2, he might have made some worrying discoveries.
The rail link not only slices through sixteen Conservative constituencies – four of which are cabinet ministers’ seats and six more junior ministers’ – but it affects the homes and business premises of some of the party’s biggest financial backers.
Analysis of the route shows that the line blights huge swathes of land owned by party donors, several of whom have told The Sunday Telegraph that they are stopping their support in protest.
It goes through a business park owned by Robert Edmiston, a prominent Conservative backer who has just been made a peer by Mr Cameron.
It also skirts within two kilometres of the historic family estate of Jacob Rothschild, whose family has donated substantial sums over the years.
As it cuts through the Tory heartlands of the Chilterns, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire, the railway will impact on hundreds of thousands of Conservative voters too. Sixty action groups have already sprung up along the route.
The high speed link was the brainchild of Lord Adonis, the Labour transport secretary, who announced the scheme months before Labour’s defeat.
Tory insiders have warned Mr Cameron it could be his “Millennium Dome” if he insists on pressing ahead with it.
As well as being massively costly, it is risky from a business and environmental perspective, opponents of the project claim.
Construction costs and compensation for those whose homes are destroyed is expected to send the final bill soaring to at least £29 billion.
Supporters of the project claim it will shave half an hour off the journey time from London to Birmingham, critics say the benefit could be as little as ten minutes.
Up to 18 trains an hour travel at 250mph through the heart of the English countryside on lines as wide as the Channel Tunnel rail link. Hundreds of homes will have to be demolished to carry the trains through residential areas.
Critics say at an estimated £200 at least for a ticket, the train would not attract enough passengers to be viable and could even run at a loss.
They claim the CO2 emissions would be enormous and that viaducts – which they claim could be as high as 45 metres – would create environemntal blight.
Tory business leaders are among those incandescent about the scheme and are lobbying Mr Cameron to change his mind.
Mr Edmiston, a car importer who has given over £2 million to the Conservatives and who funds the academy schools programme, has been told the line will go through premises owned by his company IM, a major employer in the West Midlands.
He is one of several members of the Midlands Industrial Council (MIC), a powerful group of Tory donors, protesting about the link which they say will be of no benefit to the region.
Chris Kelly, chairman of Keltruck, the UK’s largest dealer of Scania vehicles, and deputy chairman of the MIC, said: “We need capital expenditure desperately on the roads.
“Why are we spending taxpayers’ hard earned money on an additional rail line that we don’t need to get people to London ten or twenty minutes quicker?”
Another party donor, David Allen, whose estate in Northamptonshire is on the route, is withdrawing financial support for the party over the issue.
Mr Allen, who gives around £50,000 a year to the Conservatives, has served the party notice that he is cutting off donations while HS2 remains on the table.
His son Colin Allen said: “The business case totally ignores the internet. Rail journeys are going to be replaced by high definition video links yet the Department for Transport has totally ignored this.
“If there are no passengers, HS2 will be the worst financial disaster this government has had.”
Lewis Garfield, an industrialist in Northamptonshire, is also withdrawing donations.
He said: “Even if I lived in Scotland I would be fuming that they are spending £30 billion on what is a politician’s vanity parade.
“It’s another Concorde, a rich man’s toy which will be paid for by everyone. I have been a donor for 40 years and if they pass this I will withhold my funding.”
Rachel Halvorsen, a Tory councillor in Northamptonshire, said she will resign from the party if the rail ink goes ahead. Her family farm near Brackley, which is organic with rare breeds and a farm shop, will be destroyed by the railway.
“It’s not just Nimbyism. It’s completely the wrong policy. The economic case isn’t there but Cameron has become fixated by it. It’s a fat cat businessman’s railway, a complete white elephant.
“The compensation is derisory. It’s absolutely sickening. I’m a dyed in the wool Conservative but I would vote for another party now. I will resign my membership of the Conservative Party if this goes through.”
In the south, the proposed line comes within a mile and a half of Waddesdon Manor, the Buckinghamshire estate of the Rothschilds and the National Trust’s second most visited property.
Friends of Lord Rothschild said he was “very upset” about the route.
It seems Mr Cameron could hardly have come up with a more troublesome route if he had tried.
As this newspaper revealed last week, several ministers have said they will resign over the link. Cheryl Gillan, the Welsh Secretary, has said she will go and David Lidington, the foreign office minister, is among those who have said they will vote against the plans.
John Bercow, the Commons Speaker and MP for Buckingham, is said to be furious.
Meanwhile, Chesham & Amersham constituency association has told Conservative HQ it will be ending its commitment to contribute £10,000 a year to central funds and Buckinghamshire Tory associations have indicated they might do the same.
The Coalition government, however, appears determined to push the scheme through.
Mr Cameron made a strong statement in support of it last week, dismaying campaigners who fear that his mind is already made up before a formal consultation on the plans begins.
Although construction is not expected until 2017, after the next election, the Government wants to pass a hybrid Bill paving the way for the project to start sooner if possible.
“He will have a fight on his hands,” vowed one party donor. “We are ready for a huge row, but we are hoping he will see sense.”
Mr Cameron has said HS2 – which will eventually connect London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds – will have a “transformative” effect, powering regeneration and addressing the north-south divide.
While acknowledging the problem of noise pollution, he insisted he would not be swayed by pleading from his own MPs.
He said: “I have seen the map. This is incredibly difficult when high-speed rail is thundering through your constituency, because you, yourself, may not see the benefit from it.
“We can’t put a stop in every constituency – the whole point about high-speed rail is that it’s got to go fast.”