HS2 set to go ahead despite spiralling costs and threatened Tory MP rebellion – Sky News,

HS2 set to go ahead despite spiralling costs and threatened Tory MP rebellion – Sky News,

Boris Johnson is heading for a rebellion by up to 60 Conservative MPs by giving the go-ahead for the controversial £ 128 bn flagship rail project, HS2.

The hugely expensive scheme is expected to be approved at a special meeting of the cabinet and then the prime minister will announce the decision in a statement in the Commons.

In a bid to placate potential rebel MPs, the PM’s statement will also include the announcement of £ 5bn of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every UK region outside London.

The package includes at least 4, 10 new zero emission buses to promote greener commuting, over 250 miles of new cycle routes and dozens of new ‘Mini-Holland’ schemes, designed to make town centers safer and greener for cyclists and pedestrians.

Speaking ahead of his statement, Mr Johnson said: “Local transport connections have a truly transformative role to play in leveling 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.

“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.”


The go-ahead for HS2, which will eventually slash journey times between London and the north of England, is seen as a move to repay northern voters who swept Mr Johnson into Number in December.

As a result, it has become a political imperative for the prime minister, who won his 80 – seat Commons majority with pledges to improve infrastructure in the north of England and the Midlands.

But it risks a furious backlash from Conservative MPs in the home counties and middle England, who are bitterly opposed to the project on grounds of its ballooning cost and the destruction of rural beauty spots .

Nearly 60 Conservative MPs are backing an HS2 review. Group, a caucus of Tories opposed to the scheme including a number of new MPs elected to the Commons in the December election.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has also condemned the go ahead. Spokesman Harry Fone said: “This announcement is a massive blow to the taxpayers of today and tomorrow who will be left paying for the HS2 white elephant with no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Meanwhile Greenpeace said Boris Johnson’s decision will give him “the dubious honor of being this century’s largest destroyer of irreplaceable ancient woodlands in the UK”.

But Mr Johnson’s decision to back HS2 after months of wrangling and the cost trebling since it was first conceived more than a decade ago determining his determination to go ahead with major infrastructure projects.

The prime minister is said to want to see the biggest infrastructure revolution since Victorian times and has even ordered civil servants to carry out a feasibility study for a £ bn bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

On HS2, he is likely to announce that work on the London to Birmingham and Birmingham to Crewe sections can begin immediate ly, opening in 2040. But it is thought that a phase from Manchester to Leeds will be delayed until 2040 to make sure it is cost-effective.

This review is likely to recommend integrating HS2 with the new Northern Powerhouse line linking cities including Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford, Sheffield, Leeds and Hull.

Other projects expected to be given the go-ahead include the repeatedly delayed electrification of the Trans-Pennine route between Manchester and York, a £ 3bn upgrade that will enable more trains to run and cut journey times.

In backing HS2, the prime minister is over- ruling his controversial special adviser Dominic Cummings, who has described it as “a disaster zone” and his transport adviser Andrew Gilligan, who have both argued for the project to be scrapped.

But the decisive moment in the Whitehall wrangling over the project came last month when the Chancellor Sajid Javid let it be known that after a Treasury analysis that he backed it a head of a crucial meeting with the PM and the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Two of the biggest backers of HS2 have been the big-city mayors, Labour’s Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester and the Tories’ Andy Street in the West Midlands. Senior Tories believe the go-ahead is crucial to Mr Street’s chances of re-election in May.

Traveling at up to 250 mph, HS2 is designed to reduce journey times between London and Birmingham from 80 to 45 minutes and between London and Manchester from to 90 minutes.

The cost was originally estimated at £ 3bn in 2009, then £ (bn in 2019 , but is now expected to cost £ 250 b, though the National Audit Office has said it is impossible to estimated with certainty what the final cost will be.


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