Govt backs HS2 but Euston and northern sections face revamp

 

The Government has approved the HS2 project in full.

Prime minister Boris Johnson told MPs on Tuesday that the cabinet has given the £106bn high-speed rail scheme its approval.

”Local

He said the first section could be completed by the end of the decade. 

Mr Johnson criticised the 'poor management' of HS2 Ltd, the company charged with delivering the project. He said he would appoint a 'full-time minister to oversee HS2 and a new ministerial oversight group' which will be tasked with making decisions.

'I will be creating new delivery arrangements for both the grossly behind schedule Euston terminus and Phase 2b [due to run from the Midlands to Leeds and Manchester], of the wider project. But before those designs are finalised and legislation introduced, we will also present an integrated plan for rail in the north,' the prime minister added.

He also said the Government would create a High-Speed North 'integrated master plan'. Critics have suggested this 'integrated' plan for HS2, east to west Northern Powerhouse Rail, and other areas of investment is a way of breaking up the costs of HS2 into smaller discrete packages within a wider investment package.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised concerns, trialled in media reports, that the Leeds and Manchester sections in Phase 2b could be subject to a review.

The decision follows an ‘independent’ review under former HS2 Ltd chair Doug Oakervee. Despite his background, ministers presented the review as balanced, with HS2 sceptic Lord Berkeley as deputy chair.

However, in November Lord Berkeley claimed that he had been sidelined.

Last week, the Department for Transport claimed that it had not received a final copy of the report, but had received a 'draft' shortly before Christmas. However, the report has now been published and is dated December 2019,

Leaks from the report have suggested the project could cost as much as £106bn and not be completed until 2040.

Marie-Claude Hemming, director of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said: ‘After months of uncertainty, we applaud the Government’s decision to give the green light to HS2.

‘HS2 will be transformational to the economy of the UK, and will be used by generations to come. It will not only deliver a step-change in rail capacity, but will help in the fight against climate change, offering a cleaner, greener way to travel, with significantly lower carbon emissions than equivalent car journeys or domestic flights.’

Sir John Peace, chairman of sub-national transport body Midlands Connect, said: ‘HS2 is the only shovel ready infrastructure project that can future-proof our rail network, keep rail travel affordable and bring our country together in an environmentally-sustainable way.

‘We must now get on delivering this once-in-a-century upgrade of our rail network to level up the economy and unleash the potential of the Midlands and the North.’

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