PM gives green light to HS2

Boris Johnson visiting the HS2 development at Curzon Street Station

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given the green light for the controversial HS2 high-speed rail link to be built.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Johnson said that to avoid “further blow outs” in HS2’s cost or schedule, a series of measures will be taken to “restore discipline to the programme”.

He said this would include appointing a minister whose full time job will be to oversee the project, as well as making changes to the way HS2 is managed.

“There is no doubt of the clinching case for HS2,” the prime minister said.

“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.”

In 2015, it was estimated HS2’s cost would be £56bn, but a review has since warned it could soar to as much as £106bn.

The first phase of the route will travel between London and Birmingham, with a second phase going to Manchester and Leeds.

The first phase was due to open at the end of 2026 but in September it was revealed that the first trains may not run until some time between 2028 and 2031.

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

It is understood the Government intends to look again at the second phase covering the North, in order to try and identify cost savings as well as integrating these lines into the existing railways.

Responding to the news, Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “HS2 was always going to be a game-changer for the region, particularly because of the impact it is going to have both on employment and our local transport network.

“HS2 will put us at the heart of the UK’s transport system, and we will be able to attract big-name companies to the region – following in the footsteps of HSBC UK who moved its headquarters to Birmingham following the original announcement.

“As Boris said today, we do need to make sure that we find savings to bring the cost of HS2 down, and we need rigorous management to make sure that we get it built as soon as possible.

He added: “It has been a hard-fought campaign, but ultimately I always believed the economic case would win through and that the Government would give HS2 the go-ahead. I would like to personally thank Boris for showing real leadership in his decision today, and proving that he is committed to levelling-up the UK’s regions.”

Steve Hollis, chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s HS2 Growth Strategy, said: “The Government’s announcement today is a landmark that future generations will rightly celebrate. The decision to commit to HS2 is a step forward towards a better future for the West Midlands and for the whole of the UK. Our infrastructure is at breaking point and the challenges that lie ahead building HS2 must not be underestimated – but as the Government has seen through the recent HS2 review process the opportunities for the Midlands and the UK are truly transformational.”

Katie Trout, director, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is a truly once in a lifetime opportunity to bring together the UK regions and to support the ambitions to level up the country’s economy, building on the investment and enhanced sense of optimism that we’ve already seen.

“The importance of the additional capacity that HS2 will deliver cannot be underestimated, with people and businesses all over the UK benefiting from more frequent and reliable services. In order to create a 21st Century network that will unlock growth and increase productivity, it must now integrate with projects such as the Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Engine Rail.

“The advent of HS2 has already unlocked new jobs and apprenticeships, and significant additional investment. This will only accelerate as the project advances. Alongside the terminus at Birmingham Curzon, we will see an Interchange at Arden Cross in Solihull, providing huge opportunities for regeneration at these two key locations and beyond.”

Neil Rami, chief executive of the West Midlands Growth Company – which attracts inward investment into the region – said: “Even during its earliest stage of development, HS2 has helped to reinforce the West Midlands’ reputation as a globally competitive destination for business and investment. Its scale and ambition has helped the region to attract a range of companies here, such as HSBC UK, Balfour Beatty VINCI, and WSP UK.

“With HS2 expected to boost the West Midlands economy by £14bn, it will change our business environment for the better. The region is also home to the UK’s first multi-city 5G testbed, and is about to host the 2021 City of Culture and 2022 Commonwealth Games. With so many milestones on the horizon, the coming decade will showcase the West Midlands as a global hub for innovation and opportunity.”

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