No plans to back away from HS2, Grayling says


New transport secretary Chris Grayling has backed the controversial HS2 rail link – for now – and promised a rapid decision on airport expansion.

In a BBC interview, Mr Grayling said: ‘I have no plans to back away from the HS2 project.’

An artist's impression of HS2 at Euston

‘The thing that's important for people to understand is that HS2 is not simply a speed project, it's a capacity project.’

He added: ‘Of course it makes sense if we're going to build a new railway line for it to be a fast railway line, to increase travel times or reduce travel times from north to south - that's logical.

‘But actually we need a better transport system for the 21st century and HS2 is part of increasing the capacity of our transport system.’

The HS2 project has continued to be the subject of controversy recently. Earlier this month, the company responsible for the project said a proposed new station at Meadowhall, Sheffield should be scrapped.

This followed a report from the National Audit Office stating that the project was running late and over budget.

Responding to Mr Grayling’s comments, Stop HS2 campaign manager, Joe Rukin, said: ‘Saying you have no plans to back away from HS2 is hardly the ringing endorsement for the project some have taken it as.

‘Whilst Mr Grayling currently seems to have swallowed the argument that HS2 is needed for capacity reasons, the reality is that HS2 delivers capacity where it is needed the least for a far greater cost than alternative solutions.’

Mr Grayling also promised that he would ‘move rapidly with a decision on what happens on airport capacity’, while stating that: ‘It is a decision that will be taken collectively by the Government.’

The Airports Commission’s final report, published last July, recommended a new runway at Heathrow. Last month, the then transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the decision would be delayed until at least the autumn.

Following the vote to leave the European Union, Mr McLoughlin also identified both projects as examples of infrastructure projects that were vital to the economy.


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