£32bn rail project wins backing
The Government has given the go-ahead for the HS2 high-speed rail scheme, saying the £32.7 billion project would benefit the whole country.
But Transport Secretary Justine Greening will face a battle to get her plans through, as opponents of the project plan to step up their efforts to derail it.
Aware of the strength of feeling of the anti-lobby, Ms Greening announced that more of the £16.4 billion London-Birmingham first phase of the project - which passes through picturesque Tory heartlands - would be in tunnels.
She also announced extra measures to assist those affected by the scheme that will, by 2026, see 400 metre-long trains capable of holding 1,100 passengers, whisking them on a 140-mile route from London to Birmingham in just 45 minutes.
She said the scheme, which will include a second phase to Manchester and Leeds by 2033, would mean more seats, better connections, new jobs, and growth and prosperity for the entire country.
"HS2 will link some of our greatest cities - and high-speed trains will connect with our existing railway lines to provide seamless journeys to destinations far beyond it. This is a truly British network that will serve far more than the cities directly on the line," she said.
Network Rail and the Association of Train Operating Companies welcomed the announcement, with both organisations reckoning that expanding existing rail routes was not enough to combat overcrowding. Rail unions were also pleased with the go-ahead for the scheme.
But the Taxpayers' Alliance and the Stop HS2 campaign both said the project was "a white elephant", while the Institute of Economic Affairs said the scheme was "economically flawed".
Jerry Marshall, chairman of Agahst (Action Groups Against High Speed Two), said HS2 was "a disaster waiting to happen", but the British Chamber of Commerce said rail services would get worse without the new line and the CBI said the announcement was welcome.
And Stop HS2's campaign co-ordinator, Joe Rukin, claimed the route was simply the "wrong priority" for the country. Mr Rukin, from Kenilworth in Warwickshire, said: "There is no business case, no environmental case and there is no money to pay for it."