HS2

25.01.19

Grayling: government will not 'betray' Midlands or north and will deliver HS2

The transport secretary has reaffirmed that the government is committed to delivering the second phase of HS2 in its entirety, claiming that failure to deliver it would be a “dereliction” of government duties to improve people’s life chances, and a “betrayal of the people in the Midlands and the north.”

Chris Grayling told Midlands and northern leaders in a speech yesterday that media reports suggesting the Phase 2 of the flagship project might not happen were “completely inaccurate,” stating that “High Speed 2 is vital beyond Birmingham.”

The secretary was speaking after an open letter was sent to the four major party leaders this week from regional leaders in the Midlands and the north, urging them to publicly commit to delivering HS2 Phase 2 amid growing concerns about the future of the project.

HS2, which lost its chair Sir Terry Morgan in December, was reported to be considering reducing train speeds and the number of services offered following comments from chief executive Mark Thurston as the project risks overspending its budget and overrunning its schedule.

Concerns were raised about the future of the £56bn project after chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, warned the government could scrap “white elephant” projects.

Phase 1 has already received official confirmation and construction has begun but Phase 2 of the project is currently due to reach Royal Assent at the end of 2019.

But Grayling has made a strong statement against claims HS2 may not be delivered in its entirety, stating: “Failure to deliver it would be a dereliction of our duties to improve the life chances of everyone in this country, an abandonment of our ambition for one of the most extraordinary engineering projects since the Victorian age, and a huge betrayal of the people in the Midlands and the north.”

He noted: “Let me reiterate. We are committed to a second stage between the West Midlands and Leeds and between Crewe and Manchester, completing the ‘Y-axis’ and it is very heartening to see that the positive impacts of HS2 — both the first and second stage — are already being felt all over the UK.”

He added that HS2 will transform the country and rebalance the economy, but will not come at the expense of any other transport projects in the north such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Image credit -  NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

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