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It’s Europe’s biggest train set – at £321m a mile!

Boris Johnson will ‘sack’ the government-owned company behind HS2, after attacking the ‘poor management’ of the project. 

The Prime Minister acknowledged concerns over the spiralling budget for the development and admitted that the ‘cost forecasts have exploded’. 

However, he insisted that ‘poor management to date has not detracted from the fundamental value of the project’. Mr Johnson added he would now be putting a minister in charge of overseeing HS2 as a dedicated responsibility to avoid ‘further blowouts’.

HS2 Ltd will lose responsibility for a HS2 terminus at Euston station, which will be undertaken as a separate project, with the Prime Minister adding they had not made the controversial project ‘easier’. 

Responsibility for the northern leg of the project, between Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds, will also be handed to new companies. 

It comes as Mr Johnson finally gave the controversial HS2 project the go-ahead, promising that the high-speed rail link will deliver prosperity across the country.

He added that it was ‘a sign to the world that in the 21st century, this United Kingdom still has the vision to dream big dreams and the courage to bring those dreams about’. 

Works will start within weeks on the first stretch of the line between London and Birmingham, with a second phase going to Manchester and Leeds.

Here is everything you need to know about the ambitious rail project that its backers hope will strengthen ties between businesses in the north and south and help to revolutionise the UK’s economy…  

Here is everything you need to know about the ambitious rail project that its backers hope will strengthen ties between businesses in the north and south and help to revolutionise the UK’s economy…

Prime Minister Boris Johnson stands with Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid (2nd left) and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street (right) as they talk with machinery operator Chris Cassell during his visit to Curzon Street railway station in Birmingham yesterday, where the HS2 rail project is under construction

Prime Minister Boris Johnson stands with Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid (2nd left) and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street (right) as they talk with machinery operator Chris Cassell during his visit to Curzon Street railway station in Birmingham yesterday, where the HS2 rail project is under construction

Boris Johnson vowed to knock years off plans for high-speed rail to reach the North of England as he gave HS2 the green light yesterday.

The Prime Minister said despite bad management and ‘exploding costs’ that have spiralled to £106 billion, the ‘fundamental benefits’ of the scheme remained.

Works will start within weeks on the first stretch of the line between London and Birmingham, with a second phase going to Manchester and Leeds.

Mr Johnson pledged to ‘restore discipline to the programme’, with a dedicated minister tasked with preventing ‘further blowouts’ on budget and schedule.

In a bid to reward voters in the North who backed the Tories for the first time in December, he promised to accelerate the timetable that would see high-speed lines to Manchester and Leeds open by 2040.

Boris Johnson vowed to knock years off plans for high-speed rail to reach the North of England as he gave HS2 the green light yesterday

Boris Johnson vowed to knock years off plans for high-speed rail to reach the North of England as he gave HS2 the green light yesterday

The Prime Minister said that ‘condemning the North to get nothing for 20 years’ would be ‘intolerable’.

A High Speed North review will be ordered in days to look into how the northern section of HS2 could be integrated with Northern Powerhouse Rail, a proposed East to West link joining Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.

A Whitehall source said: ‘The PM is clear he wants it to be quicker. He wants to see benefits in the North well before the mid-2030s.’ Speaking in the Commons shortly after the Cabinet signed off on HS2, Mr Johnson it was the start of a ‘revolution’ for the country’s public transport.

After years of dithering, he said his Government had ‘the guts to take a decision – no matter how difficult and controversial – that will deliver prosperity to every part of the country’.

He added that it was ‘a sign to the world that in the 21st century, this United Kingdom still has the vision to dream big dreams and the courage to bring those dreams about’.

Mr Johnson dismissed calls for the vast budget to be spent instead on local transport projects across the country.

‘Yes, we must fix the joint between the knee bone and the thigh bone and the shin bone and the ankle bone and, yes, we must fix the arthritis in the fingers and the toes, but we also have to fix the spine,’ he said.

The Prime Minister also insisted the scheme would not stop other rail improvements going forward. He said: ‘With many in the North crying out for better East/West links instead of improved North/South ones, some have suggested delaying or even cancelling HS2 in order to get Northern Powerhouse Rail done more quickly.

A High Speed North review will be ordered in days to look into how the northern section of HS2 could be integrated with Northern Powerhouse Rail, a proposed East to West link joining Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle

A High Speed North review will be ordered in days to look into how the northern section of HS2 could be integrated with Northern Powerhouse Rail, a proposed East to West link joining Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle

‘But I want to say this is not an either/or proposition. Both are needed, and both will be built – as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.’

Mr Johnson said a new HS2 minister would be appointed, along with a ministerial oversight group.

HS2 Ltd, the heavily criticised company set up to run the scheme, will be stripped of the ‘grossly behind schedule’ redevelopment of Euston station and the second phase of the line. Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘I cannot say that HS2 Ltd has distinguished itself in the handling of local communities. As everybody knows, the cost forecasts have exploded, but poor management to date has not detracted in my view from the fundamental value of the project.’

The Prime Minister’s announcement follows the completion of a Government-commissioned review by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee into whether the programme should be scrapped.

The Oakervee Review recommended that ministers proceed with the project, but warned that the final bill could reach £106 billion, compared with a budget of £62.4 billion.

It suggested that the number of trains per hour should be reduced from 18 to 14 to cut costs.

The Prime Minister's announcement follows the completion of a Government-commissioned review by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee into whether the programme should be scrapped

The Prime Minister’s announcement follows the completion of a Government-commissioned review by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee into whether the programme should be scrapped

Trains will operate at up to 225mph, reducing the journey time between Birmingham and London from 1hr 22mins to 45 minutes.

Passengers arriving at Birmingham airport will be able to get to central London in just 38 minutes.

Yesterday there was muted opposition to HS2 on the Tory backbenches as MPs seemed resigned to the project going ahead.

But Andrew Bridgen, the Tory MP for North West Leicestershire, said: ‘HS2 is unloved, unwanted and has been grossly mismanaged.’ He warned the Prime Minister that it ‘could well be an albatross around this Government and the country’s neck moving forward’.

Tory former minister Robert Goodwill suggested that Old Oak Common, the railway station in West London that will act as the HS2 terminus for the first few years, should be named after Margaret Thatcher, which Mr Johnson praised as a ‘brilliant idea’.

Work on Phase 1 of HS2, the route between London and Birmingham, will start in April. The first trains are expected to start running between Old Oak Common and Birmingham from between 2029 and 2031. 

He was like a market trader flogging suspect bottles of Chanel No 5: HENRY DEEDES watches Boris Johnson as he talks up HS2

By Henry Deedes

His mood is cheery, his gait still springy. For all the responsibilities that weigh on those hunched shoulders, his face glows with mischievous bonhomie. Clearly, Boris Johnson is enjoying being Prime Minister.

Watching him with his frontbench colleagues in the Commons, laughing and joking and elbowing them playfully in the ribs, he’s determined to squeeze every last drop of pleasure from his political honeymoon until the delirium subsides.

Take his statement yesterday confirming the go-ahead for HS2.

With a number of his senior backbenchers still wobbly on the idea, this was a duty he might well have hived off to his thick-skinned Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

His mood is cheery, his gait still springy. For all the responsibilities that weigh on those hunched shoulders, his face glows with mischievous bonhomie. Clearly, Boris Johnson is enjoying being Prime Minister

His mood is cheery, his gait still springy. For all the responsibilities that weigh on those hunched shoulders, his face glows with mischievous bonhomie. Clearly, Boris Johnson is enjoying being Prime Minister

Instead the PM grasped the moment with the enthusiasm of a terrier who’s just been bunged his bedtime Bonio. Standing before the House, Boris announced a national ‘transport revolution’ which, on top of HS2, would include a £5billion investment in buses and bike lanes.

The language as ever was as ornate as Pugin wallpaper. He promised we would see ‘mini-Hollands blooming like so many tulips in towns’ where children would ‘bicycle safely and happily to school and work in tree-dappled sunlight’.

He spoke of the need to fix the ‘musculoskeletal problem’ of UK transport: ‘Yes, we must fix the joint between the knee bone and the thigh bone and the shin bone and the ankle bone. Yes, we must fix the arthritis in the fingers and the toes, but we also have to fix the spine.’

HS2 is no easy sell but the PM was pushing it harder than a market tradesman flogging suspect bottles of Chanel No 5.

With a number of his senior backbenchers still wobbly on the idea, this was a duty he might well have hived off to his thick-skinned Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

With a number of his senior backbenchers still wobbly on the idea, this was a duty he might well have hived off to his thick-skinned Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

‘This is not just about getting from London to Birmingham and back,’ he bellowed, delivering a meaty backhander to the dispatch box.

‘This is about finally making a rapid connection from the West Midlands to Liverpool’ – smack! ‘To Manchester’ – smack! ‘And Leeds’ – smack!

It’s these ‘sunny upland’ speeches where the PM so excels, talking of the future, teasing and daring colleagues to join him. In this form, he really is irresistible.

‘Yes, it is ambitious,’ the PM hollered. ‘But ambition is what we have lacked for far too long.’ The Government benches roared.

Then Jeremy Corbyn rose. Cue awkward coughs. Amid the silence, someone groaned. Corbyn appeared to have a new suit on (or he got his old suit dry-cleaned). He accused the Government of ‘stealing Labour’s ideas’, moaning that when he advocated for more buses last year the media ridiculed him. Yet now it was being hailed as a masterstroke.

Boris grinned at his opponent, throwing an imaginary uppercut.

Then Jeremy Corbyn rose. Cue awkward coughs. Amid the silence, someone groaned. Corbyn appeared to have a new suit on (or he got his old suit dry-cleaned). He accused the Government of ‘stealing Labour’s ideas’, moaning that when he advocated for more buses last year the media ridiculed him. Yet now it was being hailed as a masterstroke

Then Jeremy Corbyn rose. Cue awkward coughs. Amid the silence, someone groaned. Corbyn appeared to have a new suit on (or he got his old suit dry-cleaned). He accused the Government of ‘stealing Labour’s ideas’, moaning that when he advocated for more buses last year the media ridiculed him. Yet now it was being hailed as a masterstroke

Poor Jezza. It seems to be only just dawning on him that people didn’t want him as Prime Minister.

Behind him the Labour benches looked sullen. Rows of fed-up faces, like those pictures of delayed holidaymakers sprawled across Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal that you see on the news in August.

Ed Miliband (remember him?) despondently stared into space.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tried to ridicule Boris’s plans to build a bridge to Northern Ireland ‘over the 20-mile expanse of the North Sea’. Oops, he meant Irish Sea, the ninny. ‘I think he might need to check the geography of the United Kingdom,’ Boris chuntered.

The Prime Minister’s main critic from his own benches was Andrew Bridgen (Con, NW Leicestershire) who worried that HS2 would be ‘an albatross hung around the neck of the country’.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tried to ridicule Boris’s plans to build a bridge to Northern Ireland ‘over the 20-mile expanse of the North Sea’

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tried to ridicule Boris’s plans to build a bridge to Northern Ireland ‘over the 20-mile expanse of the North Sea’

Boris eloquently pointed out that all big infrastructure projects are loathed during their inception – the M25 and the 2012 London Olympics. But both those have served their purpose.

Quite so. He might have added the Channel Tunnel to that list.

Most surprising objection of the session came from Labour’s Meg Hillier (Hackney S & Shoreditch) who asked of these grands projets: ‘Where is the money going to come from?’ A Labour MP worrying about cost? Well, it was a new one for me, anyway.

The PM said it would be paid for by ‘the hard work and effort of the British people’. Google Translate: By prudent governance, not pie-in-the-sky Labour recklessness.

Yes, HS2 will cost £106billion – but at least the dithering is finally over, writes ALEX BRUMMER

By Alex Brummer 

At long last, the dithering and delay is over. Boris Johnson has opted to go full steam ahead on the visionary HS2 high-speed rail link designed to connect Birmingham and the North to London. 

As a long-term advocate of restoring Britain’s ageing transport, energy and communications systems, I am delighted that Johnson has refused to be cowed by the project’s many detractors.

It is, of course, a hugely ambitious project which, when completed, will rival the great engineering enterprises of the Victorian era, and deliver economic and environmental benefits to the nation for generations to come. In embracing HS2 Johnson has made clear his intention for the UK to remould itself as a formidable global commercial powerhouse outside the European Union.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during his visit to Curzon Street railway station in Birmingham, central England on February 11, 2020, where the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project is under construction

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during his visit to Curzon Street railway station in Birmingham, central England on February 11, 2020, where the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project is under construction

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 2nd left, walks with apprentices during a tour of the Curzon Street railway station, where the new High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project is under construction, in Birmingham, England, Tuesday Feb. 11, 2020. Boris Johnson said his Cabinet had given the "green light" to the high-speed rail line that will link London with central and northern England, despite the huge cost prediction and opposition from environmentalists

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 2nd left, walks with apprentices during a tour of the Curzon Street railway station, where the new High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project is under construction, in Birmingham, England, Tuesday Feb. 11, 2020. Boris Johnson said his Cabinet had given the ‘green light’ to the high-speed rail line that will link London with central and northern England, despite the huge cost prediction and opposition from environmentalists

Not only will HS2 create up to 50,000 jobs, but it will cut the time it takes to get from London to Manchester by an hour. With these shorter and more frequent journeys, Britain’s economic output could be boosted by at least £15billion a year.

This decision doesn’t come a moment too soon. Britain lags behind many of its competitors in terms of productivity – one of the drivers of future growth – and revamping our creaking infrastructure is regarded by economists as a sure-fire way to remedy it. That isn’t to say it hasn’t been a bumpy ride.

Last month the National Audit Office reported that the HS2’s initial costings were woefully inadequate. The original price tag of £32.2billion for the 400-mile railway was based on comparisons to similar high-speed routes in Europe. It failed miserably to account for the very different and complex geographies and planning constraints on construction projects in the UK.

In its initial phase, HS2 must navigate its way out of Euston station to Old Oak Common in the north-west of the capital by tunnelling under central London to connect with Crossrail (the new Elizabeth line).

Once it leaves London, it must then traverse areas of outstanding natural beauty while weaving its way to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. On the London-to-Birmingham leg alone, this requires 25 miles of tunnelling and a 90-metre deep excavation under the Chilterns – a far more complex route structure than the French and Spanish high-speed railways which largely pass through countryside.

Combined with the enormously expensive compulsory purchases of property along HS2’s route, the current price tag stands at £106billion. That is a massive sum. But as Chancellor Sajid Javid has pointed out, interest rates in Britain are at their lowest level in his lifetime, meaning now is a unique opportunity to undertake ambitious futuristic projects. 

But we should not let these criticisms detract from the inevitably positive effects of HS2. It will relieve passenger and freight congestion on existing rail lines, with each extra train taking 40 heavy goods vehicles off the road

 But we should not let these criticisms detract from the inevitably positive effects of HS2. It will relieve passenger and freight congestion on existing rail lines, with each extra train taking 40 heavy goods vehicles off the road

Certainly, it is imperative that the oversight of the project is scrupulous, that the costs of the army of specialist consultants and contractors are thoroughly policed and the executives managing the project are kept on a tight leash. It is also true that from the start the project has been beset by delays and allegations that the Government failed to check properly how much the property purchases would cost.

But we should not let these criticisms detract from the inevitably positive effects of HS2. It will relieve passenger and freight congestion on existing rail lines, with each extra train taking 40 heavy goods vehicles off the road.

The railway will also eventually feed into a planned high-speed link from Liverpool to the North East – an essential component of the Northern Powerhouse. All the evidence from Japan suggests that new railways bring booming industrial development and revitalise neglected parts of the country.

While we should be sensitive to concerns in Tory shires about high-speed trains whizzing through countryside, the reality is that a quieter, carbon-free railway, possibly powered in the future by non-polluting hydrogen trains, will make an immense contribution to a greener Britain.

By giving HS2 the green light, the Johnson Government is not just fulfilling its commitment to levelling up the North but is building a transport and economic legacy which will remain on track for generations.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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