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.”
The Government has said that it may scrap HS2 despite over £7 billion having already been spent on the new high-speed rail line. Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, said that the project would be reviewed and a decision made on whether it would continue.
Shapps said in an interview:
“We are launching the review as we genuinely want to know what it would cost to complete this project. Then we will know and we will be in a much better position to make the decision to go or no go by the end of the year.”
Lord Adonis, the former Transport Secretary, who has called for increased spending on the rail infrastructure, posted on Twitter:
“HS2 review is about as stupid as you can get & screws Birmingham & the North. Classic Johnson. It throws project into flux & will cause big delays, loss of confidence & cost increases. But HS2 will almost certainly continue afterwards in modified form. What a shambles.
Membership of the review is about evenly divided between supporters & opponents of HS2, who will now engage in a massive bun fight while the Transport Department runs for cover & HS2 Ltd is paralysed by indecision.
Designing an infrastructure project by committee is always bad, but redesigning by committee of contrarians is reckless & irresponsible. This is Cummings-style Maoist mayhem to appease a handful of Tory backbenchers.
So much for Johnson’s commitment to infrastructure and the North! The first thing he does is to delay and possibly undermine the first strategic investment in the north in decades.”
George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has confirmed that the HS2 Rail Link between Birmingham and Crewe is to open six years early. The route will now open in 2027 and will cut rail journeys between London and Crewe by 35 minutes.
In a statement Osborne said:
“In my Spending Review we committed to the biggest rise in transport spending in a generation meaning that major projects like the construction of HS2, to link the Northern Powerhouse to the South, can begin.
Bringing forward this part of the HS2 route by six years is a massive step in the right direction for the Northern Powerhouse where high speed rail will play a big role in connecting up the entire region with the rest of the country.
It’s fantastic to announce someone of the calibre of John Cridland to take on the important role of chairing Transport for the North. He will bring huge knowledge and experience to this position and I want to say thank you to Sir Richard Leese for the great job he has done in an interim capacity. I look forward to continuing to work together to deliver our shared aim of a world-class transport system for the north”.