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It’s official: Johnson’s Cabinet gives HS2 the green signal

Updated 14.06 11 Feb.

PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has announced that HS2 is going ahead, and reaction has been coming in.

However, he has criticised the management of HS2 Ltd, particularly in its approach to local communities.

Mr Johnson said: ‘The Cabinet has given High Speed Rail the green signal. We are going to get this done. And we are taking action to restore discipline to the project.’

He also said Northern Powerhouse Rail will be developed. He continued: Some have suggested cancelling HS2 to get Northern Powerhouse Rail done. But this is not an either-or proposition. They will be part of one integrated plan – High Speed North.

Let us bring about a future where high speed trains glide between our cities.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded: Today’s piecemeal announcements do not repair the damage done by a decade of Tory government.

‘The Prime Minister laments our inadequate infrastructure, yet it’s his party that has been starving the country of investment for the last 10 years resulting in the worst regional inequality in Europe.

‘Yet today the Prime Minister is selling his announcements as a prize for parts of the Midlands and the North. I tell him: people in those regions to whom he promised so much in the general election are going to be sorely disappointed.’

Midlands Connect Chairman Sir John Peace said: ‘HS2 is the only shovel ready infrastructure project that can future-proof our rail network, keep rail travel affordable and bring our country together in an environmentally-sustainable way. We must now get on delivering this once-in-a-century upgrade of our rail network to level up the economy and unleash the potential of the Midlands and the North.

‘HS2 is already a catalyst for huge regeneration in Birmingham city centre; now, we can get on with bringing the same transformation to the areas around the other Midlands’ HS2-connected stations.

Rail Delivery Group chief executive Paul Plummer said: ‘These are crucial decisions that will turbo-charge rail’s role in levelling up Britain’s economy. Taken together, HS2 and High Speed North represent vital investment to improve today’s railway and, through seamless integration with the existing tracks, build a reimagined rail network for the next 100 years.

‘High Speed North will increase capacity and improve reliability while bringing the north of England closer together and build on the roll out of new trains across the region. HS2 will mean more frequent local services on existing lines, less road congestion with more freight going by rail and faster, and more punctual journeys between many parts of the country.’

Rail Forum Midlands CEO Elaine Clark said: ‘This headline decision that HS2 is to proceed is good news for our members, good news for our regional and national economy and good news for rail commuters who can now look forward to the much needed additional capacity that HS2 will bring. Despite what some people may argue it’s also good news for the environment as HS2 will help us reduce carbon emissions and by freeing up capacity on the existing network will help move freight from road on to rail.’

Railway Industry Association dhoef executive Darren Caplan said: ‘The Railway Industry Association and our members support the Government’s decision today to get HS2 done, a decision that could unlock a new “golden age of rail”.

‘HS2 will not just boost the UK’s economy and connectivity, but will also enable other major rail infrastructure projects to be delivered too, such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Rail Hub, East West Rail, Crossrail 2, and a range of other schemes.’

Dr Jenifer Baxter, who is chief engineer at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: ‘The Institute is delighted that the Government has retained confidence in the benefits of HS2. The resulting improvements to both north-south and east-west flows in the North of England will lead to economic growth, modal shift from road and air to rail for both passengers and freight. This will provide significant benefits for reduced greenhouse gas emissions and reduce pollutants that contribute to poor air quality.

‘The routes minimise the impact of construction on the operation of today’s railway with opportunities to investigate how the high-speed rail link can be delivered with minimal environmental impacts. For example, more refined modelling using information from High Speed 1 might indicate where some expensive tunnelling may be avoided.’

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘This Government has dithered over this decision for far too long which has meant uncertainty and delays to this vital rail project. The Government and HS2 must take steps to ensure that jobs on the project are directly-employed, with union agreements, a safe workplace, and without the scourge of blacklisting.’

Not everyone is in favour. Jonathan Bartley of the Green Party said: ‘Today’s decision by Boris Johnson proves once again he will choose vanity projects over common sense. The economic and environmental case for HS2 has slowly crumbled since it was announced a decade ago. From whatever angle you look at it HS2 is a colossal white elephant.

‘It is time to put this project out of its misery and instead allocate these funds to facilitating a local and green transport revolution. We need projects that favour regional connectivity and help local people in their daily lives.’

Nikki Williams of the Wildlife Trusts said: ‘Nature is paying too high a price for HS2. We urged the Government to re-consider in the light of The Wildlife Trusts’ report which evidenced the serious risk that HS2 poses to nature – and to take notice of over 66,000 people who wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to review HS2. Today’s announcement means that it is more critical than ever that the whole project is redesigned – before HS2 creates a scar that can never heal.’

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