A blueprint for the £32.7bn High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line published today signals a delay in plans to build a spur to Heathrow Airport until 2015 at the earliest.
The Government has put on hold plans for a spur of the London-Birmingham section of the line pending the results of Sir Howard Davies’ review of future airport capacity which is not due to give a final report until the summer of 2015.
The planned route will now have five new stations, at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton in the East Midlands, Sheffield and in Leeds.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is bringing forward public consultation on the plans to 2013 in a bid to fast-track the project.
The HS2 project is expected to create 100,000 jobs, including 10,000 during construction.
Chancellor George Osborne insisted the network would be an “engine for growth” in the north and the Midlands, but admitted communities along the route would face “very difficult” disruption to their lives. He added the economic benefits were “pretty compelling”.
The original link connects London to Birmingham, after which it splits into a Y-shape with two branches, one up to Manchester and another to Leeds.
The branch running via Manchester Airport will include a spur to Crewe to speed up trips to Liverpool and Scotland by better connecting to conventional services.
Ian Taylor, Commercial Director at Marketing Birmingham, told CN that HS2 “offers huge benefits for Birmingham’s events sector by providing event organisers and their international and national delegates with quicker, easier and more reliable transport access to the area.
“We need to ensure our connectivity offer is globally competitive. Birmingham is investing more in its transport infrastructure in the next five years than it has in the past 25, through projects such as the £600m New Street Gateway and the expansion of Birmingham Airport. HS2 will enhance this offer and future proof our links to the next generation.”
Journey times between London and Manchester could be cut to one hour, eight minutes and between Manchester and Birmingham to 41 minutes.
Manchester Central international convention centre also welcomed the announcement, and CEO Angie Robinson (pictured), said: “This is great news for business in Manchester and great news for events and conferences in Manchester.
“I am delighted that the route announced today has an extra stop in Manchester. HS2 will make Manchester an even more attractive destination for delegates attending events in the city and will reinforce the already established strong links between the two cities.”
The cabinet will meet in the North today, with ministers being sent out into the region to sell the benefits of the scheme.
“High-speed rail is an engine for growth that will help to drive regional regeneration. It is vital that we get on board the high-speed revolution,” Prime Minister David Cameron will say in a speech, according to The Times newspaper.
Many rural councils and interest groups in constituencies affected by the proposed construction are expected to ramp up their opposition to the project which, even with positive rulings from the courts, is only expected to see ground broken on the southern section in four years time at the earliest and trains running by 2026.
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