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Prime Minister confirms HS2 will go ahead

HS2

HS2 to go ahead, alongside radical improvements to local transport networks across the country

HS2 will go ahead alongside radical improvements to local transport networks all across the country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed today.

In a statement to Parliament, Mr Johnson said that after careful consideration of the independent Oakervee review, the decision had been taken to proceed with the high-speed rail project.

Alongside this, the Prime Minister outlined his vision for a revolution in local transport to ensure that towns and cities in every region have the modern, joined-up network needed to fire-up economic growth.

The Prime Minister said: ‘Delivering better, faster and more reliable transport connections is the way to close the opportunity gap across this country. But it is not and never will be an ‘either/or’ between big projects and local services.

‘Dramatic improvements to local transport and the decision to proceed with HS2 will shift this country’s centre of gravity away from the capital and transform connectivity between our towns and cities.

‘I am drawing a clear line under the mismanagement of the past – HS2 must be delivered more efficiently and cost-effectively so that communities feel its benefits more quickly, particularly those in the North.’

Douglas Oakervee’s independent review into HS2 has today been published in full.

After thorough analysis of the benefits and impacts of the project, work on Phase 1 (the route between London and Birmingham) is set to start in April this year, and the Government will revive the legislation to deliver Phase 2a (connecting Birmingham to Crewe) as soon as possible so that preparation works can move forward.

The Prime Minister also told Parliament that he is committed to Phase 2b of the project, extending high-speed rail from the West Midlands to the North.

In order to work out how best to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail and Phase 2b more effectively, the Government will draw up an integrated plan for rail in the North, informed by an assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission.

This will work to identify the most effective sequencing of all relevant investments in the North, and look at how the two schemes can work together alongside wider investment in transport for the North and Midlands. It will also have a focus on ensuring that lessons are learned from Phase 1 of HS2 to drive down costs.

Recognizing that better East–West connections are a priority for local leaders, the Government will also look at how best to accelerate the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail, including looking at options for a new delivery body.

The decision to proceed with HS2 is accompanied by a clear commitment to drawing a line under past failures of leadership, transparency and cost control, and a recognition that to go forward, things must change.

The Prime Minister outlined a number of measures to instil discipline and financial order to the project, including:

  • Appointing a dedicated minister with specific oversight and accountability for HS2
  • Redefining HS2 Ltd’s role so that they can give maximum focus to successfully delivering Phase 1 and 2a, and making new delivery arrangements for Euston station and the design and construction of Phase 2b, to ensure better value for money and on time delivery
  • Improved transparency through regular reports to Parliament from the responsible minister.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘I’ve been clear that we needed all the facts to decide the way forward with HS2. Fully informed by a comprehensive and detailed scrutiny of all the facts, now is the time to drive HS2 forward, alongside a ‘High Speed North’ plan to give the North and Midlands the capacity and connectivity it vitally needs.

‘We are also clear that the project must reform and improve, with clearer accountability and transparency to ensure its incredible benefits are matched by a tight control of costs.’

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement confirming that HS2 will go ahead. Having recently called on the Government to make a firm decision, and ‘get HS2 done’, the Association says it is pleased that its members, who have already made significant investments in the necessary capacity, can now focus with confidence on supplying the vast tonnages of concrete, aggregates and other mineral products needed.

Nigel Jackson, chief executive of the MPA, said: ‘We have been calling for this decision for some time, so it is very welcome news. Credit where it is due, the Government has now made its decision. MPA members are ready to supply materials for constructing HS2 and all other infrastructure.

‘The new Government’s commitment to infrastructure is welcome news and we hope to see a sustained focus on delivering projects in the pipeline.’

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