Plans for a new high speed rail link in the United Kingdom are expected to be confirmed by Transport Secretary Justine Greening today. The first stage of the link will see a rail line constructed between London and Birmingham with trains travelling at speeds of up to 225 miles per hour.
The £32 billion HS2 link; which has been dubbed a ‘motorway for trains’, cuts through the heart of traditionally Tory Middle England and is expected to take 14 years to complete. Further extensions to the line are planned to link up with Manchester and Leeds but so far ministers have only committed to the first phase of the scheme, following the huge controversy that the plans have caused.
The rail link has been widely derided since the plans were announced with critics claiming that the line will destroy acres of beautiful countryside, cost the tax payer unnecessarily and be too expensive for the majority of the country to use.
The HS2 has also caused a political divide within most parties, with ministers from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the SNP all voicing concerns about rail safety, expense and the damage that will be caused to the English landscape.
According to the Director of the Taxpayers Alliance, Matthew Sinclair, the scheme could cost every British family £1000 and would only benefit a small minority. Sinclair questioned the fairness of the scheme and called the HS2 business plan ‘weak’.
However a report released by Network Rail stated that Britain’s ‘busiest and most economically viable’ rail artery was already at capacity and without the new line being constructed there would be ‘no more space’ on the existing artery. One hundred top business leaders have also spoken out in support of the project.
Justine Greening’s formal announcement of the scheme will go ahead today but finalising legislation will take until 2015. Construction is then expected to take a further eight years, reaching the test stage in 2024 and opening two years later.
The link will reduce journey times between Birmingham and London from 1 hr 24 mins to just under 50 mins. The second phase is expected to cut a further hour from journeys between London and the north.