Prime Minister says HS2 will be built

Posted on 27 Feb 2020 and read 933 times
Prime Minister says HS2 will be builtEarlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the go-ahead for the first phase of the HS2 high-speed rail route between London and Birmingham (to be followed by a second phase going to Manchester and Leeds).

Saying that it had been a difficult decision, he added that he was going to appoint a full-time minister to oversee the project, and he criticised the HS2 company’s management of the scheme.

“I cannot say that HS2 Ltd has distinguished itself in the handling of local communities. The cost forecasts have exploded, but poor management to date has not detracted from the fundamental value of the project.”

The Prime Minister also said that a series of measures would be taken to “restore discipline to the programme”.

The first phase of the high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham was due to open at the end of 2026, but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs in September that the first trains may not run on the route until some time between 2028 and 2031.

The second phase (to Manchester and Leeds) was due to open in 2032-33, but that has been pushed back to 2035-40.

However, Mr Johnson told MPs he hoped that if work started immediately, that trains “could be running by the end of the decade”.

However, the spiralling cost of the project has raised many concerns; the cost highlighted in the 2015 Budget was just under £56 billion, but one independent estimate now puts the cost as high as £106 billion.

Matthew Fell, the CBI’s chief UK policy director, said: “The Prime Minister’s decision to back HS2 is exactly the sort of decisive action required to inject confidence in the economy.

"It sends the signal around the world that the UK is open for business and shows the Government’s commitment to ‘levelling up’ the nations and regions of the UK. The project will bring jobs, new homes, skills and investment to the areas of the country that need them most.”

British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said: “The decision to proceed with HS2 was a long time coming, so it is great news for businesses, investment and growth in many parts of the UK.

"However, while progress on the first phase of HS2 will be celebrated, the Government’s decision to review parts of the route beyond Birmingham will unsettle business communities in the Midlands and the North.

"The case for many of the transformative transport, regeneration and investment projects planned in the North and Midlands depends on the full project going ahead. Business communities will continue to campaign for delivery of the full HS2 route.

"If ministers want to achieve their aim to ‘level up’, they must not let down some of the areas that have given HS2 their ‘full-throated’ support.”

Chris Fletcher, marketing and campaigns director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce said: “HS2 will promote regional growth, unlock labour markets, drive direct investment opportunities and unblock congested local rail lines, so the possibility of further delays to the second phase is worrying and disappointing.

"It feels like residents, businesses and commuters across the North of England are again being ignored, as we are asked to wait on yet another review to deliver what — in many countries — would be seen as a crucial infrastructure priority and fast-tracked.”

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