Prime minister gives green light to HS2

The High Speed 2 rail project which will connect parts of the north to London has been approved by the prime minister.

The first phase of the  new track will run between Crewe and London Euston via Birmingham, and is scheduled to be complete between 2028 and 2013.

A second phase will then connect Wigan and Manchester to Crewe, and Leeds to Birmingham. This should be complete between 2035 and 2040.

The project has proven controversial, with costs spiralling from £56bn to £106bn, as well as the path of the new track moving people out of their homes and passing through wildlife habitat.

However, once operational, HS2 will reduce overcrowding and speed up journey times. A trip from Manchester to Piccadilly to London currently takes more than two hours, but would be cut in half via the new route says the Department of Transport.

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce said: “The decision to proceed with HS2 was a long time coming – so it’s great news for businesses, investment and growth in many parts of the UK.

We’re determined to push ahead and get spades in the ground here.

“It's time to stop debating and start delivering the new capacity and connections that HS2 will bring to our communities and businesses."

Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North, welcomed the news and highlighted the opportunity for the north to take a leading role in the project.

He said: "The powerful combination of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will transform the rail legacy left by the Victorians, now creaking under the strain of demand. That’s east-west and north-south connections for our 15 million people and businesses.

"Benefits to the North’s communities need to be delivered as quickly as possible and we’re determined to push ahead and get spades in the ground here.

"We want to see full commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail in the National Infrastructure Strategy due to be published on budget day. Doing so would slash journey times in the North, spark economic growth and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. Crucially, the decisions must now be led by the North.”

Chris Manka, north west regional chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, sounded a note of caution over proposals to reexamine the northern-most parts of the project in order to save costs. He said: "It is welcome that at long last a decision has been made to proceed with HS2, although we naturally have some concerns about the proposed future review for onward connections to Manchester and elsewhere.

“What we don’t want to see is the wider Northern area merely getting the leftover crumbs from the plate, and ultimately a second class system compared to the south. We are desperately in need of a ‘levelled up’ railway system, with much greater capacity, and vastly improved connectivity east/west, that will help deliver more sustainable travel for all."

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