Cumbria needs HS2 to fuel jobs, training and regeneration opportunities, the chair of the region’s CBI branch has argued.

CBI deputy regional director for Cumbria and the North East, Alistair Westwood, made the argument for the county as part of a nationwide plee by the business organisation for the Government to back the controversial high-speed railway project.

Mr Westwood is one of the CBI’s six regional chairs to issue a joint statement on HS2, which argues that the line is “vital” to rebalancing the UK’s economy and the nation’s future prosperity.

They want Prime Minister Boris Johnson to offer the Government’s “unwavering support”, describing HS2 as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive regional economic growth and rebalance the economy”.

The project will create half a million jobs, stimulate house-building along the route and support much-needed investment across the North and the Midlands, they say.

The push comes just days before the Douglas Oakervee is due to hand the findings of his review to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, which the Department for Transport says will inform the Government’s decision on the next steps for the project.

Sources close to the Oakervee review have told ITV News that it will recommend that the eastern stretch between Birmingham and Leeds should be scrapped entirely and the western route to Manchester downgraded due to spiralling costs of HS2, which currently stand at around £103 billion.

But Mr Westwood and his counterparts have argued that a scaled back version of the line will not improve the connections that “businesses are crying out for”.

“Simply put, Cumbria needs HS2 and the high-speed links to the rest of the country,” he said.

“HS2 is more than just a railway line, it’s a key that unlocks future jobs, training and regeneration opportunities that will benefit us all.

“We have all come together to make a joint intervention in this debate, we believe that HS2 is crucial in supporting the UK Government aim of rebalancing the UK economy and boosting productivity in the regions

“It is time for MPs and policymakers to lift their gaze, put the national interest first and back HS2. We cannot have more dither or delay. Britain needs to be bold and I am urging them to back HS2.”

The CBI’s demands follow the publication of an independent report into HS2 by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

It argues that scrapping HS2 in the North without “credible and viable alternatives” will derail efforts to close the UK’s economic North-South divide.

It has also called for the creation of a special purpose vehicle based on the model of the Olympic Delivery Authority, called HS2 North, to ensure HS2, the £39 billion Northern Powerhouse Rail project and related rail upgrades are “combined efficiently and with maximum value”.

However, pressure is also growing from opponents, who argue the eye-watering costs of the project will not offer a return on investment.

Free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute has dismissed HS2 as “a product of political thinking, poor management and overly complex design”, with the project returning 78p of value for every £1 of taxpayers’ money spent.

It also highlights that a number of key cities, including Carlisle and Lancaster, will lose direct trains to London if HS2 is delivered. They instead have called for upgrades to existing lines, including the West Coast Mainline, along some new sections of track to be delivered instead at a fraction of the cost.

Any link to Cumbria would fall in the third phase of work, with HS2 trains using the existing West Coast Mainline north of Wigan, although doubts continue to grow over whether HS2 will ever reach the county.