U.K. Business Condemns Talk of Scaling Back High-Speed Rail Plan
(Bloomberg) -- Britain’s biggest business lobby said speculation about a scaling back of the country’s High Speed 2 rail project is becoming damaging and the government should commit to completing the plan on time and in full.
Media reports suggesting the eastern arm of HS2 will be scrapped as costs spiral above 100 billion pounds ($137 billion) risk undermining confidence and investment decisions, the Confederation of British Industry said Friday.
HS2 is “a cornerstone of government and business ambitions,” CBI Chief Policy Director Matthew Fell said in an emailed statement. “It’s too important a project to downgrade. Reductions in road emissions and congestion will benefit the environment, and improved transport links can forge new collaborations between businesses, cities and regions.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism over spending on HS2, which critics say would be better devoted to building new hospitals and other infrastructure. At the same time, the 225-mile-an-hour line is seen as critical to boosting links between London and northern England, including marginal parliamentary seats that backed Johnson and his Conservatives in the last general election.
The eastern part of the Y-shaped HS2 line is due to run from Birmingham to Leeds via cities in England’s East Midlands. Work on the first section of the network between London and Birmingham is already underway and will later extend north to Manchester.
Read: U.K. Shelves HS2 Branch to Save $54 Billion: Sunday Mirror
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said Thursday the government’s upcoming Integrated Rail Plan will outline exactly how major rail projects will work together to deliver reliable train services across the North and Midlands.
No decisions have been made on the delivery of the so-called Phase 2B and the IRP will consider how to sequence its construction to ensure benefits are realized.
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