But the debate isn’t over yet
London businesses will be able to benefit from fast-track rail links to Birmingham from 2026, now the government has approved the controversial HS2 rail line between the two cities.
Ministers reportedly believe the initiative is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we travel in Britain”.
The London-Birmingham link, which will cost £17bn to complete, will run from Euston station to the Birmingham city centre station at Curzon Street. It will provide direct links to Birmingham airport, the NEC, the M6 and M42 via a fleet of 225mph trains that will cut the journey time between the two cities to 49 minutes.
This is the first stage of a £32bn project, which will subsequently spread further north to cities such as Manchester and Leeds, by 2032/33. When this second phase of the network is complete it will reduce London-Manchester and London-Leeds journey times to 80 minutes.
The government is also understood to be keen to introduce a new rail link between the HS2 network and the existing London to Channel Tunnel HS1 route. This would run through a tunnel from Old Oak Common to the North London Line and use existing infrastructure to reach St Pancras station. Ministers were also expected to say that the HS2 routes will include Scotland – cutting down the travel times from London to Scotland’s major cities to around three hours 30 minutes.
Over a 60-year period the government believes the project will provide economic benefits of almost £44bn and thousands of jobs as the network spreads across the country. The first phase alone is expected to generate 40,000 job opportunities.
The announcement hasn’t been welcomed by everybody. The Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) issued a statement this morning claiming that the cost of HS2 will require a contribution of £1,000 per person, through income tax. The IEA also claim that the HS2’s time-saving claims are based on flawed assumptions and are not credible.
The plans have also been met with opposition due to the route’s passage thorough the Chilterns, but it is thought the government will announce changes to run the route through tunnels to offset some of these fears.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Water Orton, Warwickshire, resident Peter Walker spoke out against the plans after he said no-one contacted him about the rail link, despite a map setting its route directly through his house.
“Water Orton will be absolutely destroyed when this comes through,” he said. “You think of it now – it’s got M42, the Northern Relief Road, M6 – and it chops it in half.”
Meanwhile, shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle told the BBC that the decision is an “important milestone”.
She said: “HS2 will now be taken forward on a cross-party basis to give it the certainty a major project of this kind needs.”