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Building of HS2 should start from the North say MPs
THE North must not have to wait 20 years for high-speed rail to arrive, a committee of MPs says today.
The controversial £42.6bn HS2 project is “essential” but building work should start from the North, as well as from London, its report suggests.
The new HS2 chairman is urged to report within 12 months on speeding up work so 225mph trains reach north of Birmingham “well before 2032-33”.
And the report goes further, arguing: “We would also like Sir David Higgins to report on building North to South concurrently with building South to North.”
The all-party transport select committee made the same suggestion back in 2011, an idea dismissed by ministers for having “practical and legal obstacles”.
However, the MPs are encouraged that Sir David, when he appeared before the transport committee, hinted he would look at it again.
HS2 is intended to deliver high-speed trains from London to Birmingham by 2026 – and a Y-shaped network, on to Leeds and Manchester, seven years later.
Through trains will cut the Darlington to London journey time to 1hr 51mins, the department for transport (Dft) says – 32 minutes quicker than at present.
Durham City will be “less than two hours from Birmingham” and the Tees Valley could enjoy new direct rail links to London, by freeing up space on existing lines.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls dropped a bombshell last month, when he warned Labour might withdraw support, even if the budget stays at £42.6bn.
But today’s report backs the Government, insisting: “Only a new line can bring the step change in capacity which is required.
“Bringing high-speed rail to the Northern cities has the potential to transform the nation’s economic geography.”
The committee pointed out the likely cost of HS2 was actually £28bn – not £42.6bn – because the remaining £14. 6bn is a “contingency fund”.
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