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Case strengthens for High Speed build from the North

The case for bringing forward construction of the northern section of High Speed 2 (HS2) has strengthened, according to an influential panel of MPs.

The cross-party Transport Committee in its latest report called for consideration to be given to rejigging the construction schedule for the proposed £42bn rapid rail link.

Sir David Higgins, who will become chairman of scheme promoter HS2 Ltd in January, told the committee in October that the project promoter “should certainly look at” building from the north.

The committee’s report said this week: “Sir David Higgins has told us that when he takes up his post as the chairman of HS2 Ltd he will look at the case for building north to south concurrently with building south to north.

“We believe that the economic, transport and political case for this has strengthened since our last report [in 2011]. We look forward to Sir David reporting back to us on this matter.”

Under current plans, phase one of HS2, linking London to Birmingham, will open in 2026, with phase two from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds opening six years later. 

Higgins said in October that he would look to speed up the progress of a bill to enable work to begin on the northern section of the line. This is currently expected to gain Royal Assent in 2020.

“That’s a long way from now,” said Higgins. “You could build stage one between now and [gaining] Royal Assent for the second bill. Surely we can make that quicker?”

He added: “If you are in the North you want to see the benefits earlier. I don’t think people want to wait until 2032 or 2035 to see the benefits.”

The committee said it supported the strategic case for HS2.

“We stand by our conclusion that HS2 is needed to provide a long-term increase in the capacity of the railway and that alternative proposals to increase capacity are not sufficient to accommodate long-term forecast demand,” said the report.

The government last month published the hybrid bill for phase one, which would give it the powers to construct and operate the railway. It hopes to begin construction by March 2017.

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