Boris Johnson confirms high-speed London-Birmingham rail link will go ahead

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LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the controversial HS2 high-speed rail link will be built. The first phase of the route will travel between London and Birmingham, with a second phase going to Manchester and Leeds.  “There is no doubt of the clinching case for HS2,” the prime minister said.

Mr Johnson added that he was going to appoint a full-time minister to oversee the project and criticised the HS2 company’s management of the scheme.

“I cannot say that HS2 limited has distinguished itself in the handling of local communities. The cost forecasts have exploded, but poor management to date has not detracted from the fundamental value of the project.”

The first phase of the high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham was due to open at the end of 2026. But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs in September that the first trains may not run on the route until some time between 2028 and 2031.

The second phase to Manchester and Leeds was due to open in 2032-33, but that has been pushed back to 2035-40.

However, Mr Johnson told MPs that he hoped if work started immediately that trains “could be running by the end of the decade”.

The cost set out in the 2015 Budget was set at just under £56bn, but the independent Oakervee review has said it could cost more than £100bn. Mr Johnson added: “We will, in line with the review, investigate the current costs to identify where savings can be made in phase one without a total redesign.”