Government to give final go ahead to HS2

Ministers also reveal package of funding to boost bus travel and cycling across England as part of transport package

Photo: PA

Boris Johnson is to give the green light to the entire High Speed 2 rail line today following a review of the project.

The BBC is reporting that the prime minister will today announce that the rail link, which joins London to Birmingham and Manchester to Leeds, although there will be a new examination of the project's second phase in a bid to cut costs and link it better with existing lines.

The prime minister last month dropped a clear hint that he would push ahead with the scheme in the wake of a report from the National Audit Office which found that HS2 was "over budget and behind schedule".


Speaking to pupils during a primary school visit, he said: "Now the truth is, the people who did it spent far too much money, they were profligate with the way they did it. Do you know what I mean by profligate? They just wasted money.

"And the whole way it was managed was hopeless."

But, he added: "So we’re in a hole, we’re in a mess. But we’ve got to get out of it. And we need a way forward, so we’re thinking about how to sort it out now."

And he said: "In a hole the size of HS2, the only thing to do is keep digging... That’s what you’ve got to do. It’s a big hole."

The move has already been welcomed by Henri Murison, who heads up the Northern Powerhouse Partnership group that campaigns for more investment in the north of England.

"The north’s civic and business leaders have argued tirelessly that major infrastructure investment is so badly needed to provide the extra capacity urgently required on our rail network," he said.

"The Northern Powerhouse Independent Review on HS2 showed when published last year that there were no identified credible alternatives to HS2 and by better integrating the last phase with Northern Powerhouse Rail we will ensure that we get the maximum possible benefits. It is very encouraging that their recommendations are mirrored by the government’s own review published today."

But the decision will spark anger from the Conservative benches,  with almost 60 Conservative MPs already joining the 'HS2 Review Group'  demanding a rethink.

In 2015, it was estimated that the cost of HS2 would be £56bn, but information leaked from a government review headed by the project’s former chair Douglas Oakervee predicted that this rise to as much as £106bn.

The expected announcement comes alongside a promised £5bn boost for bus and cycling routes outside of London, with Johnson saying: "Local transport connections have a truly transformative role to play in levelling up infrastructure across the country."

The buses plan will provide additional funding for local authorities to improve the frequency of local services, as well as giving buses priority on some roads to quicken journeys, and rolling out around 4,000 zero emission buses. Further details will be announced alongside the upcoming National Bus Strategy, to be published later this year at the Comprehensive Spending Review

The government will also back creation of more than 250 miles of new cycle routes and safe junctions will be built in towns and cities across England.

Johnson said that local transport connections have a truly transformative role to play in levelling up infrastructure across the country.

“Our daily journeys for work or leisure are about so much more than just getting from A to B – they are the key to accessing skilled jobs and opportunities, boosting businesses and unlocking economic growth for towns, cities and regions across this country,” he said.

“That’s why improving connectivity by overhauling bus services and making cycling easier than ever is such an important step forward, to make sure every community has the foundations it needs to thrive.”

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