HS2: Government to Give High-Speed Rail line Go-ahead
Boris Johnson is expected to confirm HS2 will go ahead on Tuesday, despite concerns over its budget and the environmental impact of construction.
The controversial high-speed railway scheme is likely to be discussed at a Cabinet meeting in the morning, before the Prime Minister makes a statement on the project.
It has been reported that Mr Johnson will give the green light for Phase 1 between London and Birmingham, but say more analysis is needed on the cost of the route extending further north to Manchester and Leeds.
High-speed trains will also run beyond the new lines on existing tracks as far as Edinburgh and Glasgow.
HS2 Ltd – the Government-owned company responsible for developing and building the railway – says it will boost capacity and cut journey times.
Approving the plan could be seen as a risky move for Mr Johnson as there has been opposition to the scheme within the Conservative Party. His chief adviser Dominic Cummings called HS2 a “disaster zone” last summer, while several MPs who represent constituencies that could be affected by the building works are also against the project.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has defended the right of Tory MPs to oppose the plan, saying they were entitled to represent the views of their constituents.
Former Conservative cabinet minister David Lidington, said he feared HS2 was “20th Century technology and infrastructure for a 21st Century economy”.
Labour peer Lord Berkeley – former deputy chairman of the project’s independent review – said HS2 would not help commuters in the north, but would be good for people travelling between London and Birmingham.
Environmental groups say HS2 will boost carbon emissions and spoil areas of natural beauty.
In 2015, it was estimated that the cost of HS2 would be £56bn, but a review has warned that it could rise to as much as £106bn.
Work to prepare the ground for the first phase of HS2 linking London and Birmingham has been going on for years. But a green light from the government means construction of the railway will begin relatively soon.
It is also expected that work on the line between Birmingham and Crewe will be rolled into the first phase. It had originally been slated to begin at a later stage.