UK & World News
HS2 Rail Link: PM Vows Plans Will Go Ahead
David Cameron has insisted high-speed rail links to the north of England will go ahead despite a growing backlash at the plans.
The second phase of the Government's plans will take the route beyond Birmingham, with five new stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton in the East Midlands, Sheffield and in Leeds.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is bringing forward a public consultation to 2013 to fast-track the project.
The £32.7bn plan is one of the coalition's priorities as it tries to kickstart the economy. Construction is due to start in 2017, with the first trains in service by 2026.
Pro-HS2 campaigners hailed the plan as "visionary", but there was immediate concern about the effect on the counties involved.
Some Conservative backbenchers attacked the proposals and the Stop HS2 group challenged claims that it will help the economies of northern cities.
Pressed on whether he could be forced into a U-turn, Mr Cameron said: "This is going to happen. I have been a strong supporter right from the start.
"We do need to rebalance the economy, it has been too dominated by the south and by certain industries and high speed rail will really help to create a better balanced economy."
Chancellor George Osborne insisted the network would be an "engine for growth" in the North and the Midlands, creating tens of thousands of jobs.
He admitted communities along the route would face "very difficult" disruption to their lives but said the economic benefits were "pretty compelling".
The initial link connects London to Birmingham, after which it splits into a Y-shape with two branches, one to Manchester and another to Leeds.
The branch running via Manchester Airport will include a spur to Crewe to speed up trips to Liverpool and Scotland by better connecting to conventional services.
The second branch - which includes Sheffield being served by a station at the Meadowhall shopping centre instead of the city centre - could prove more controversial.
Officials said interconnections would be improved at any stations situated outside cities. A "parkway" station is set be included at Toton between Nottingham and Derby.
But a proposed spur to Heathrow has been put on hold pending the results of Sir Howard Davies' review of future airport capacity, which is not due to report until 2015.
Instead, passengers heading to the world's busiest airport will have to change onto the new London east-west Crossrail service for an 11-minute transfer to terminals.
The Department for Transport said the journey from Manchester to Birmingham would be reduced to 41 minutes and from Manchester to London to 1 hour 8 minutes - almost half the present times.
According to officials, Leeds will be 57 minutes away from Birmingham, compared to 1 hour 58 mins today, and 1hr 22mins away from London Euston, down from 2hrs 12 minutes.
Mr McLoughlin hailed the rail project as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform Britain's connectivity, capacity and competitiveness".
He admitted the project was "controversial", but added: "This is not about short-term popularity. It is about doing what is right for the country in the long-term."
The project has been welcomed by civic and business leaders in the region, who predict that the number of jobs created could be far higher than the 100,000 cited by the DfT.
But it faces opposition, especially in picturesque Tory heartlands which will be affected, such as the Chilterns, infuriating MPs and countryside campaigners.
Michael Fabricant, Tory MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire, which will be affected by the plans, warned Mr Osborne he will face opposition in his own constituency of Tatton.
"The problem is that this route plunges through countryside which is at the moment unblemished by either major roads or by rail," he said.
"I believe the route is going to go through Tatton. He will experience for himself, as will all those other MPs, precisely how strongly people feel about their environment being blighted by HS2."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is MP for Sheffield Hallam, was also forced to defend the move not to run the new line into Sheffield city centre.
"The city centre option is not a cost-free one. It would be a lot more expensive and also the train link would be slower, which slightly defeats the purpose of the whole exercise," he said.
Campaign group Stop HS2 claimed high speed rail projects elsewhere had "sucked jobs to the capital cities" and that this project would do little to regenerate the North.
Chair Penny Gaines said: "HS2 is a London-centric proposal that seems focused on extending the London commuter belt beyond Birmingham, when we need to create an engine for growth in the North, providing access to jobs for people who want to live and work in the North."
Labour backs HS2, which was begun when the party was in Government, but says there are "worrying signs" that the timetable for delivering it is slipping.
The High Court is currently considering whether the first phase of the project, which will take high-speed trains from London to Birmingham, is legally flawed and needs to be reconsidered.
The challenge was taken to the court by campaigners who accused the Government of failing to undertake a "strategic environmental assessment" or arrange an adequate consultation process.
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what do you think?
Total waste of money ! just finding work for people to do.
The North & South ar too far apart in terms of a commute. The big jobs in finance etc are all in London. Major cities in the north such as Sheffield and Leeds are somewhat isolated. A 1 hour trip to London from Sheffield would be fantastic.
You`ll need a well paid job to commute from Leeds or Sheffield everyday.
At last the need has been recognised to stimulate some growth in the Northern half of the country after unsuccessfully gambling on the City of London to generate any prosperity.
it stops 200 miles short of newcastle
I would like to clarify my position in as far as I am not necessarily arguing in favour of this particular project, but against the attitude that wants to keep the activity, the growth and the potential in the South East.
Dont see how this will kick start the economy if the work does not start until 2017 - the only people that will make money out of it until then are all the legal people contesting it in court - and they dont need our help anyway
Nick, if we hadn't ever started any major projects because of the length of time that it would take, then nothing would ever have been done, anywhere.
Nick. I think this scheme will take forever as each yard is contested in court. It will make the length of time it took to complete the M25 a five minute job
Makes a Heck of more sense than getting involved in MALI to impress France/ Germany of our commitment to Europe or the £ millions of our borrowed money to FORIEGN AID countries, we should BIN that Policeman of the World Agreement signed after WW2 what with give aways and hand outs to the world coupled with the Old Guard TORIE policys masked as austreer measures it all adds up to ££££TRILLIONS. Remember/ Remember who won the EURO BANK CAPITOL Vote back door passed years ago in Europe FRANKFURT right!!! Not London!!!
How many other people will lose their homes due to this showcase project and grandstanding by politicians ?
Thought we had no money to spend....
My thoughts excatly.
Fat lot of good that'll do for the economy now.All those consultants must be rubbing their hands with glee
We had all the old rubbish from Osborne on the telly again, about how this will benefit everybody! We live half way between London and Birmingham where it doesn't stop so no benefit at all but the noise, and a raised concrete track cutting across some friends land about 15 feet high, some benefit? They are not interested in disrupting peoples lives and reducing the value of peoples property by 50%. We won't be voting for them ever again, nor will most of the population of the Chilterns, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and south midlands towns.
WHP. The problem for you is both of the main parties are committed to this scheme so what choice do you have. Spare a thought for us in Newcastle who will end up having to pay towards this scheme which will end 100 miles away in Leeds.
Bang on the mark. North Oxfordshire through South Warwickshire has some of the most beautifull countryside in the UK. From The Rollright Stones of Long Compton, past Meon Hill, up to The Meriden Gap. HS2 will despoil everything which surrounded it
Sorry, but it's the idealogoy of folk like you who are preventing anything from getting done in this country. Shopping centres - someone contests it. Trains - contested. Parkways - contested. Hotels - contested. Yes we have lucious green countryside and wonderful waving hills, but we also have a poor rail network and a poor transport system in general. Is it worth spoiling the countryside? That's arguable I'll admit. But christ alive, yet more plans to move this country forward and we have campaigners again.
Matt. I think there is a lot of truth in what you say. Any major infrastructure project in this country has to overcome so many legal challenges as to almost make it pointless starting. Remember the Newbury by Pass which dragged on for years thanks to a handful of cavemen. THe French have the right idea
I remember the Newbury Bypass. . That woodland had remained unspoilt since saxon times. Gone forever for a nonessential road. Even government today recognise building more and more roads in no solution to transport needs. Let alone spoiling more of our finite greenbelt land
Tell you what guys concrete over all the countryside and buy everything from abroad cos at this rate there'll Be no countryside left
Its Such a pity we have to vote for any of them Its not a class thing anymore voting !!!! People are just so Embarrassed to be Associated with ANY of THEM. One wonders whats next to come in Order to get Votes. Most Old Londoners Have/Are moved OUT of the Capitol of U.N forces.
When will the people of this country wake up and see that we NEED this type of transport system in place? Rickety old trains and lines with delays and disruption every single day - that surely costs the economy billions a time. The Japanese have a transport system in place where the trains are NEVER late. EVER. Same goes for the Swiss. The British people need to embrace new ideas and move into the 21st century. We're fast becoming a toilet.
But we don't have the money at the moment. It's sad but true, we genuinely can't afford this! Well, so we are told?
The people of Japan and Switzerland have not had an " import everything " culture drilled into them.
Whilst there is talk about new airports HS2 offers the opportunity to create a hub system servicing airports with capacity thus distributing the congestions over and around London and bringing higher levels of national employment in the long run. I also hope they will make some procurement rules by giving preference to UK based companies - despite the EU rules. Missed opportunity though.
Waste of money and time. Cost will be two hundred pounds to get on the thing, and you will have to queue for two hours. Fifty pounds to park at the station. The builders will all come from poland. They treat us like mugs. Absolute farce.
Looks good on paper. The only trouble is that it will be plagued with a reluctant workforce as at present. Compare the histories of Schiphol & Heathrow: Rotterdam & the Port of London. It's not so much a question of "getting with it", as of eradicating non-co:operative mindsets across the spectrum.
Imported Labour Ask H.H (deputy Labour) she will ship them in.
H.H and B.A.L.L.S have the multi culture answer to Labour
What a a waste of money.Surely it should be spent on far more important things like the NHS.
Well yes at the moment shouldn't we be pooling our little recourses and leaving the big stuff till we can afford it. I know this sounds mighty boring of me, but right now for example, I would like a bigger car, I cannot afford one. So I'm having to save for one....but until then I have other more urgent bills to sort out. If we don't have the money why are we throwing it about like we do? That's what got us into this mess to begin with.
Oh yipee! So we can look forward to work in 2017. What about here and now!!
I detect a whiff of nimbyism around all this. The house i grew up in had a main railway line running through at the end of the garden, passenger as well as freight. Front of the house had an A-road. It was never a problem.
another fiasco such extravagance in times of austerity, what about putting the money that will help the average worker, the contracts will go to non UK companies
Is this only going ahead if Cameron re elected like everything else