Transport secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed the government is committed to the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line going ahead and said that construction will begin in the first half of 2017.
A fund of £70M has also been announced for communities and road safety along the London and the West Midlands route. The Hybrid Bill giving the go-ahead for the first phase of construction is awaiting royal assent. A decision on the HS2 phase two route to Manchester and Leeds will be taken in the autumn.
“We need HS2 now more than ever,” said Grayling.
“We’re facing a rapidly approaching crunch-point. In the last 20 years alone, the number of people travelling on our railways has more than doubled and our rail network is the most intensively used of any in Europe.
“We need HS2 for the capacity it will bring on the routes between London, the West Midlands, Crewe, Leeds and Manchester as well as the space it’ll create elsewhere on our transport network.
“We need it for the boost it will give to our regional and national economies. And we need it for the jobs it will create, and for the way it will link our country together.”
The £70M community fund will be spent on improving access to the countryside and environmental conservation, supporting local businesses that may be disrupted by HS2 construction and road safety improvements such as traffic calming and safer junctions. Funds will be allocated via a bidding process.