McLoughlin pushes ahead with High-Speed 2 rail
By Richard Johnstone | 28 January 2013
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has today announced plans to quicken construction of the £32.7bn high-speed rail line linking London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
Unveiling the detailed route for the second phase of the High Speed 2 line, which will split into two branches to run from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, McLoughlin also revealed proposals for six new stations.
Plans to build the first stage of the line from London Euston to Birmingham by 2026 have already been set out by government, with the initial phase estimated to cost £16.3bn.
McLoughlin said he would now launch a consultation on the second stage this year. He has ordered the Department for Transport to examine whether the project could be completed before the current completion date of 2032. The second phase will include stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Leeds, Sheffield and an East Midlands hub.
Under the proposals, journey times from Manchester to both Birmingham and London will be nearly halved, down to 41 minutes and 1 hour 8 minutes respectively. Leeds will be 57 minutes away from Birmingham city centre, compared to 1 hour 58 now, and 1 hour 22 minutes away from London Euston, down from 2 hours 12 minutes today.
Construction of the line to cities in northern England would secure a ‘step change’ in Britain’s economy, and could create 100,000 jobs, McLoughlin said. ‘It is about an investment in infrastructure that will deliver a priceless dividend: 351 miles of new railways helping people to jobs and goods to market.’
Some campaigners have opposed the project due to the cost and environmental impact, but McLoughlin said it would be ‘irresponsible’ not to build the line.
He added: ‘This is an unparalleled opportunity to secure a step-change in Britain’s competitiveness and this government will do everything possible to ensure that the towns and cities in the Midlands and the North get the connections they need and deserve to thrive.’
Speaking after the announcement of the route, Prime Minister David Cameron said High Speed 2 would be ‘an engine for growth that will help to drive regional regeneration and invigorate our regional economies’.
He added: ‘We are in a global race and this government’s decision to make high-speed rail a reality is another example of the action we taking to equip Britain to compete and thrive in that race. High-speed rail is a catalyst that will help to secure economic prosperity across Britain, rebalance our economy and support tens of thousands of jobs.’
Welcoming the decision, Network Rail, the owner and operator of Britain’s railways, said that high-speed rail would be ‘a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform both the railway and connectivity in this country’. Once complete, the new line will provide much-needed extra capacity on Britain’s busiest rail lines and help boost economic growth through better connections between our biggest cities, the government-backed firm added.
Chief executive David Higgins added that Network Rail was working to ensure ‘seamless integration’ of HS2 with existing lines, so cities not on the route, such as Liverpool and Newcastle, would still benefit from quicker journeys.
However, the Stop HS2 campaign group said that the plan was a ‘London-centric proposal that seems focused on extending the London commuter belt beyond Birmingham’.
Campaign manager Joe Rukin said: ‘HS2 is the wrong investment at the wrong time. The country is supposedly bust, we are seeing cuts in services all over the place, but the government wants to spend money on a train line which will only benefit the richest in society.’