The go-ahead for the next phase of Britain’s controversial HS2 high-speed rail network has been approved. Phase 2A of the project will be built from the West Midlands to Crewe, and was given Royal Assent on Thursday 11 February.
Supporters of HS2 say it will spur economic growth, help level up the country, and provide greener transport. But environmentalists say it will increase carbon emissions and can’t be justified now people have embraced video conferencing such as Zoom.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Whatever your view of this project, HS2 is now a reality - heading north, creating jobs and building a brighter future for our country. This vital project is at the heart of the government’s commitments to build back better from the pandemic, tackle the North-South divide and drive growth across the country. I look forward to seeing spades in the ground to get this section built and deliver the benefits of high-speed rail to the North as swiftly as possible.”
But critics argue that the justification for building HS2 was ever-increasing rail passenger numbers and that the government now admits future passenger growth is unknowable. However, HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson recently said: “If the first reaction to the pandemic is to cancel major infrastructure projects committed to by successive governments now for more than a decade… that would have a chilling impact on the construction sector in the UK and inward investment.”
BBC transport correspondent, Caroline Davies, stated: “A year since the PM announced that HS2 would be built, another phase has been given the go ahead. But this project still has more hurdles to go. While phase 2A was anticipated to be signed off, the rest of the proposed route - from Crewe to Manchester and the eastern leg, connecting Birmingham and Leeds - are both still in the works.