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Work begins on high-speed rail in Birmingham as Tories quarrel over HS2 future

Chris Grayling and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street marked the start of the construction of the HS2 high speed rail line in Birmingham, at the same time as Conservative ministers argued over HS2’s future at their party conference.

The Transport Secretary joined Andy Street and construction workers in a visit to the site of the future HS2 station in Birmingham city centre as diggers moved in to begin work on the new Curzon Street Station.

But at the Conservative Party conference, top ministers emphasised the importance of HS2 after Boris Johnson called for the high-speed rail scheme to be put on hold.

Under the current schedule, the “game-changing” HS2 station will open in 2026 with today marking an “incredible moment for the future of this country” and “the history of rail travel in the UK,” according to Chris Grayling.

The transport secretary said: “HS2 will not only deliver the step change in rail travel that this country needs, it will also ensure that Britain is at the forefront of railway construction once again, “supporting thousands of jobs and businesses and creating a first-class skills base that we can export around the world.” 

The work at the Curzon Street site will involve land preparation, archaeological works, construction of the new station and the creation of a visitor site.

Andy Street said: “HS2 is a game changer for the West Midlands. We are already seeing businesses and investors choosing Birmingham because they know that it will be at the heart of the new network.

“It’ll better connect the north, the south and the Midlands, making it easier for millions of people to travel, work and play.”

Street added: “Curzon Street Station is at the centre of plans to regenerate Birmingham City centre.

“Boots on the ground getting the station built is a really exciting moment for me and for the whole West Midlands.”

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Boris Johnson said: “There are projects we should have on transport in the north of the country that ought to take precedence over HS2.”

He said that the government should prioritise building new high-speed rail links in northern England instead, saying: “It’s crazy how long it takes to get east-west across the country."

This provoked an angry response from the business secretary Greg Clark, who said that halting HS2 would be “completely the wrong approach.”

Speaking at a fringe event art the Tory conference, Clark said: “One of the upsetting criticisms, I think, of successive governments in the UK is that we haven't got on and invested in supporting infrastructure for the economy.

“We've made a decision to invest in HS2 - I think it's important that we follow through with that."

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Image credit - Ben Birchall/PA Wire/PA Images


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