Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has said in a statement today in the House of Commons that HS2 will proceed. A Government Minister will oversee the project full-time to ensure that costs are brought under control, with construction work now expected on building the line to start this year. The first stage of the project between London and Birmingham is expected to be completed within around ten years, with work on later stages expected to be finished by 2040.
Boris Johnson said in his statement:
“I cannot say that HS2 limited 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 Labour Party also confirmed that it backed the project, which was initially approved by the then Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Adonis, in 2009. The project may cost up to £100 billion, although the Prime Minister said he hoped that the total bill would come to no more than £88 billion.
The Prime Minister added that the benefits of the project were still clear in terms of increasing capacity on the rail network and ensuring that trains could get from Birmingham Airport to London in around 38 minutes.
A spokesperson for the CBI said:
“The Prime Minister’s decision to back HS2 sends the right signal around the world that the UK is open for business. HS2 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. Once built, HS2 will bring much needed capacity to our railways and help to realise the government’s promise of an ‘infrastructure revolution’ for the North, Midlands and beyond.”
There has been an unexpectedly high turnout at the People’s Vote Rally in London today, which was initially expected to be attended by around 100,000 people. Estimates from the organisers suggest that the number of attendees is over 650,000 people, many of which are younger voters. A rival Leave Means Leave rally is though to have been attended by just over 1,200 people.
Lord Adonis, a Labour Peer, said:
“This week’s fresh chaos and confusion over Brexit negotiations has exposed how even the best deal now available will be a bad one for Britain”.
Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP for Streatham, said:
“Absolutely fantastic to see such huge numbers at the People’s Vote March. The rally in Parliament Square starting shortly!”
The Prime Minister has yet to comment on the rally.
Andrew Adonis, the interim Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission and former Labour Secretary of State for Transport, has welcomed the Chancellor’s investment announcement in today’s budget.
George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced £430 million in support of recommendations made by the National Infrastructure Commission.
“The National Infrastructure Commission was established to transform the way we plan and deliver major infrastructure projects. I am glad that the government has accepted our first three reports.
Putting HS3 at the heart of a new High Speed North can help bring our great Northern cities together and fire growth and Crossrail 2 is vital to keep more than 10 million Londoners moving in the 2030s. A Smart Power revolution across our energy sector – principally built around three innovations, Interconnection, Storage, and Demand Flexibility – could save consumers up to £8 billion a year by 2030, help the UK meet its 2050 carbon targets, and secure the UK’s energy supply for generations”.