U.K. Minister Raises Question Over Part of Flagship Rail Project
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said “a lot has changed” since Britain’s flagship rail project was first proposed, and refused to be drawn on whether a key branch in northern England would go ahead.
Boris Johnson’s government is coming under increasing pressure to commit to the eastern part of the Y-shaped High Speed 2 layout -- from Birmingham to Leeds via cities in England’s East Midlands -- amid reports it could be scrapped as costs exceed 100 billion pounds ($136 billion).
Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Sunday night, Shapps urged members to wait for the so-called Integrated Rail Plan, which is “not far away.” But he added that when HS2 was conceived, the country didn’t have other projects in the north and Midlands on the table.
The U.K. government wants to see people “travel around more easily, get to places faster, and with greater capacity,” Shapps said. “So I won’t say more than that, but I think it gives you a clue as to my direction of travel.”
Britain’s biggest business lobby says backing HS2 in full is critical in boosting links between London and northern England, which includes parliamentary seats that switched to the Conservatives in the last general election.
Work on the first section of the line between London and Birmingham is already underway, and will later extend north to Manchester. Officials have failed to put to rest speculation that the eastern leg may be delayed or canceled due to the cost.
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