Transport Secretary, Mark Harper has said he will keep an ‘open mind’ when it comes to reviving HS2.
Speaking at a Conservative Home conference, Harper said that the government had given a ‘commitment’ to West Midlands mayor, Andy Street that any proposal for HS2 to be privately funded would be examined by his department.
Harper’s comments come after increased speculation that a plan to privately fund the leg between Birmingham and Manchester could see Phase 2 revived. Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham recently joined forces with Street and a group of private companies, led by Arup to gauge the possibilities of using a similar route with ‘different construction methods’ being explored.
Initially, HS2 chairman Sir John Thompson told the transport committee that HS2 had been involved in discussions with the group but had been told not to divulge any information to the working group by the Government.
Rail Minister, Huw Merriman was also at the event and reiterated the government’s intentions to sell the land off and remove the building restrictions which were in place. Harper confirmed that HS2’s ringfenced land in between Handsacre Junction and Manchester was going to be lifted last week.
Meanwhile, HS2 did show some progress on the construction of Old Oak Common as it completed the breakthrough of a tunnelling machine to its underground location at the station yesterday (Tuesday 23 January).
The 853m long tunnel, which runs from the Atlas Road logistics hub, is being built to service the programme to construct the line eastwards towards Euston. It will eventually allow materials required for the Euston Tunnel to be transported to the site without clogging up local roads or disrupting work going on elsewhere at Old Oak Common station.
James Richardson, Managing Director of Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture, said: “The completion of the Atlas Road logistics tunnel paves the way for us to deliver our London tunnels programme to Euston.
“The tunnel supports our continued commitment to reducing cost and carbon by removing one million lorry journeys off London’s roads.”
HS2 did also confirm that whilst funding arrangements for Euston were being considered, that designs and preparations were continuing for the station.