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'Worrying signs' of delays to HS2

There are "worrying signs" the Government's controversial HS2 high-speed rail project will suffer delays, Labour has said.

The warning came a day before the Government announces the Y-shaped route the new railway line will follow when it is extended from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

The project, which will cost £32.7 billion in total, is expected to be finished by 2033. Cutting journey times from the capital to Manchester to just 80 minutes, the 225mph passenger train is one of the coalition's priority projects as it seeks to kick-start economic growth.

Monday's announcement will come after figures showed the economy shrank 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2012 and may be headed for an unprecedented triple-dip recession. But the High Court is considering whether the first phase of the project, which will take high-speed trains from London to Birmingham, is legally flawed and needs to be reconsidered.

The challenge was taken to the court by campaigners who accused the Government of failing to undertake a "strategic environmental assessment" or arrange an adequate consultation process.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: "We strongly support the transformation of Britain's national rail network to provide greater capacity and reduced journey times via new high-speed links and upgrading our existing network. We welcome the fact that the Government is about to set out the route north of Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds and we will study the details of the proposals carefully.

"However, there are worrying signs that the Department for Transport's timetable to deliver this vital infrastructure is slipping and we believe ministers should be working more vigorously to ensure the proposals are delivered on time."

Around two-thirds (64%) of business leaders surveyed last August said the proposed London to Birmingham HS2 line would help their ability to grow their companies. But the first tranche of the scheme has also proved controversial, especially in picturesque Tory heartlands which will be affected, such as the Chilterns. Residents there will not enjoy the economic or personal benefits of a station and some have opposed the project on environmental grounds.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin on Saturday admitted he was braced for a backlash when the proposed route to the west and east of the Pennines is announced. He said: "I'm afraid we will upset some people, but I appreciate that and we've got to try and do as much as we can to alleviate the damage wherever we can."

Penny Gaines, chair of the Stop HS2 campaign, said: "We are firmly of the opinion that the whole HS2 project is fundamentally flawed. It should be cancelled as soon as possible so that we can concentrate on developing the transport infrastructure that will bring more benefits to more people than a fast train for fat cats." for Transport)


From Belfast Telegraph