Green light for UK high speed rail project
By Helen Wright10 January 2012
UK Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening has approved a £32 billion (€39 billion) plan to construct a new high-speed rail network that will link London with The Midlands and The North.
The High-Speed Two (HS2) project is planned to be built in two phases. The 90 mile (104km) first phase will see the construction of a line from London to the West Midlands, including Birmingham, which also connects with the existing High-Speed One (HS1) network. This line is expected to open in 2026, with construction scheduled to start in 2016.
With trains running at up to 225mph (363kmph), the first phase of the project would cut London to Birmingham journey times to 49 minutes.
The next phase is scheduled for construction in 2032 to 2033 and would involve extending the line in the north to Manchester and Leeds. The government forecast that the entire project would generate benefits of up to £47 billion (€57 billion) and fare revenues of up to £34 billion (€41 billion) over a 60-year period.
Ms Greening, who described the HS2 plans as "the most significant transport infrastructure project since the building of the motorways", said the government was signalling its commitment to providing 21st century infrastructure and connections in the UK.
But the project has generated controversy, in particular from people living along the route, whose concerns included the environmental impact of the new line.
In response, Ms Greening approved the project with a package of alterations to reduce its impacts. The changes mean that more than half of the first phase of the route will involve tunnels or cutting.
These include a longer, continuous tunnel from Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire to the M25 through the Chilterns, a new 2.75 mile (4.4km) bored tunnel along the Northolt Corridor in Greater London and a longer green tunnel past Chipping Warden and Aston Le Walls in Northamptonshire.
A longer green tunnel will also be built in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, while the planned green tunnel in South Heath, also in Buckinghamshire, will also be extended.