No question over UK government's commitment to HS2 with £70m fund
Image credit: Tiia Monto
The UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed the government’s commitment to HS2, the controversial high-speed rail link to connect London with Birmingham and the north of England. He also announced £70m of funding to improve road safety and help local communities along the route.
According to Grayling, Britain needs HS2 urgently as it faces a rail capacity crisis due to a growing population and ageing infrastructure.
“We need HS2 now more than ever,” Grayling said. “We’re facing a rapidly approaching crunch-point. In the last 20 years alone, the number of people travelling on our railways has more than doubled and our rail network is the most intensively used of any in Europe.”
He added that the £42.6bn project, which will connect London with West Midlands, Crewe, Leeds and Manchester, will help create up to 100,000 jobs, 75 per cent of which would be outside London. Once up and running in the middle of the next decade, HS2 will create new economic opportunities by linking the country together.
Grayling also announced that £70m of funding will be made available to support local communities along the route and improve road safety in the area.
Community groups, charities, non-governmental organisations and business support specialists will be able to bid for the funding – which comes from the HS2 Community and Environment Fund and the Business and Local Economy Fund – as early as the beginning of 2017, when construction of the first phase of HS2 is expected to start.
With a total price tag of £55bn, which includes new trains, HS2 has drawn criticism with some experts saying other cheaper alternatives would serve the country better.
However, the government continues to stand firm behind the project, which it says will be delivered on time and on budget.
“It is ready to happen, it is going to happen and it’s going to make a massive difference to our country,” Grayling said.
“We will see it through to completion with the first trains running in the next decade. We have got a good team, a good plan and a good track record. I am very confident that this is a project that will happen on time and on budget.”