Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed that the government is staying committed to the £50 billion High Speed 2 rail project despite the change in Downing Street occupants.
HS2 was a key government scheme under former prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne, but since they have been replacement by Theresa May and Philip Hammond, uncertainty has crept into a number of policy areas, not least because the implications of the UK leaving the European Union are still not known.
The many opponents of the scheme had hoped that HS2 could fall victim to budget cuts under the new regime.
However, Mr Grayling has confirmed that construction work on HS2 will indeed begin in the first half of next year as planned.
Grayling commented: “We need HS2 now more than ever. “We’re facing a rapidly approaching crunch-point. In the last 20 years alone, the number of people travelling on our railways has more than doubled and our rail network is the most intensively used of any in Europe.
“We need HS2 for the capacity it will bring on the routes between London, the West Midlands, Crewe, Leeds and Manchester as well as the space it’ll create elsewhere on our transport network.
“We need it for the boost it will give to our regional and national economies. And we need it for the jobs it will create, and for the way it will link our country together.”
He also added that a decision on the HS2 Phase Two route to Manchester and Leeds will be taken before the end of this year.
Last month, a number of MPs said that the HS2 rail link needs a “realistic timetable” and believe that the current schedule is “overly ambitious.”
The Public Accounts Committee said “it is not convinced” that the first phase of the £56bn rail line – linking London and Birmingham – will open at the end of 2026 as planned.