Newly appointed transport secretary Chris Grayling has given his backing to High Speed 2 (HS2) in a BBC Radio 4 interview.
“I have no plans to back away from the HS2 project,” he told Radio 4’s “The World This Weekend”.
Grayling said that HS2 would cut journey times and add capacity along the planned route.
He pointed to the West Coast Main Line as an element in the rail network that has been under stress from an increase in freight and consumer demand, with Milton Keynes and Northampton suffering as a result.
Grayling’s predecessor Patrick McLoughlin was a major backer of the high speed scheme. But the views of the new Conservative administration under prime minister Theresa May are not yet clear.
Contractors are preparing tenders for up to £11.8bn of civil engineering works on the first phase of the project.
In March, project promoter HS2 Ltd named the nine teams in the running for the main surface route and tunnels packages on phase one of the scheme, from London to Birmingham.
The invitation to tender (ITT) is for phase one main civils works, valued between £5.4bn to £8.6bn.
Phase one of the project is forecast to create 14,600 construction jobs and apprenticeships.
Later in the process, successful firms will also be eligible to bid for a further £1.8bn to £3.3bn of works for phase 2a, from Birmingham to Crewe.