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HS2 to be given the green light by Johnson

The UK Government is set to give HS2 the final go ahead in the face of concerns about the project’s rising budget and its impact on the environment, the BBC has reported.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm today that the massive HS2 rail project will go ahead. The proposed high-speed rail line will link London to Birmingham and then split into two lines to connect Manchester and Leeds.

Since it was first proposed under Gordon Brown in 2009, the HS2 project has struggled with considerable opposition from different political and environmental groups as well as a spiraling budget.

First projected in 2011 to cost £32.2bn, this figure was revised upwards in 2015 to £56bn. The total anticipated cost now sits at £106bn - nearly three times the original budget.

The second phase of the project beyond Birmingham will be subject to a review to identify cost savings and integrate new services into existing railways, the BBC said.

High-speed trains will also run beyond the new lines on existing tracks as far as Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Supporters of HS2 say it will slash journey times and add capacity to Britain’s crowded rail network, allowing the country to catch up with European countries such as France and Spain, which already have extensive high-speed rail networks.

However, Conservative MPs in seats along the route south of Birmingham are among those who are angry over HS2’s cost and impact on the environment. HS2 critic and Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant described the expected announcement as “very disappointing” and warned HS2 will cause “immense” damage to the countryside.

The Tory benches erupted into shouts of “No” when Johnson, during Prime Minister’s Questions last month, was asked if he agreed that HS2 should go ahead.

Johnson’s most senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, is said to be in favour of scrapping the scheme.

The new line was due to open in December 2026, but HS2 chairman Allan Cook said last year it would be “prudent to plan for an opening between 2028 and 2031”.

Last month, Whitehall’s spending watchdog said the scheme is over budget and behind schedule because its complexity and risks were grossly under-estimated. The National Audit Office has warned that it is impossible to “estimate with certainty” what the final cost could be.

HS2 has been the subject of years of intensive lobbying from politicians and opposition groups. Several environmental organisations claim building it will cause huge damage to natural habitats, including the ruination of dozens of ancient woodlands.

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