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Grayling promises £70m for communities as HS2 needed ‘more than ever’

Transport secretary Chris Grayling unveiled a new £70m fund for communities affected by HS2 as he reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the high-speed rail project.

Speaking at the Transport Times HS2 Conference, Grayling announced three new funds for communities along the project’s phase 1 route: the HS2 Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and the Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF), which together total £40m. There is also a £30m fund for road safety projects along the route.

“We need HS2 now more than ever,” Grayling said. “We need it 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. So you can take it from me today, HS2 is going ahead.”

He added that HS2 was often considered controversial because of its impact on houses and businesses, but not the business case for the route. The transport secretary stated that the government should “do more to spread the positive effects of the railway to people who live and work along the route”.

The CEF will help enhance community facilities, improve access to the countryside and conserve the natural environment along the route, while the BLEF will support local economies in areas where businesses may experience disruption from the construction of HS2.

Community groups, charities, non-governmental organisations and business support specialists can bid for grants from the CEF and BLEF funds from next year – when construction is due to begin – to 2026.

Of the funding, £15m will go to the central area (Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire), £7.5m to Greater London, £7.5m to the West Midlands, and £10m for cross-border or wider route projects.

Cathy Elliott, chair of the CEF and BLEF funds, said: “Allocation of the funds in this way allows communities to have an indication of the level of funding available while maintaining some flexibility to ensure that the overarching objective of the funds are met.

“Allocating the funding on a regional level will allow the funding of larger schemes which are likely to deliver a long lasting legacy.”

There have been doubts raised about HS2 since the EU referendum and the change of government, although both Grayling and Theresa May have insisted they still back it.

Andrew Tyrie, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, recently  wrote to Grayling saying the Department for Transport has failed to justify the economic case for the project, while the Public Accounts Committee has warned the phase 1 opening could be delayed from 2026 to 2027.

(Image c. HS2)

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Lutz   12/10/2016 at 18:26

Still no answer yet on how close the figure is to GBP 78 Billion, and on which side. It is also the case that the rate of cost increases will now be higher than were allowed for in the original cost estimates, or even in the recently announced review of costs by the Treasury. Perhaps GBP 90 - 95 Billion will now be a more realistic target.

John Burns   13/10/2016 at 10:51

All this uncertainty is distressing to countless thousands. The whole of the eastern section of the HS2 "Y" can be abandoned as an uprated ECML (and MML) can do what HS2 would do in speed and capacity. There is no need for any HS track north of a Crewe Hub. There is no need to rip apart Camden and rebuild Euston. There is no need to build the eastern section of the HS2 "Y".. HMG/DfT appear to be set on going ahead for political face saving rather than any need. No economist can see any overall economic growth because of HS2. They should announce a cut back version. If they wanted votes they would do that.

Geordie   13/10/2016 at 13:59

Face it, Hs2, like Hinkley, like Heathrow, WILL happen. The govt is intent on these projects despite all the evidence against them. It's as though we have money to burn!

David   14/10/2016 at 17:09

How much money are you suggesting be ploughed into our existing mainlines, to get the same benefit as HS2? Service reliability on the ECML is already poor, I don't fancy it getting any worse for the next ten years. Btw Geordie, are you against spending money on *anything*?

Geordie   14/10/2016 at 20:14

David; I am not against spending money on Gatwick, safe, proven nuclear power plants, and the existing rail network.

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