Boris Johnson’s cabinet has given its approval for the whole of the HS2 high-speed train line to go ahead, with work expected to start within weeks.
Johnson announced his decision to the House of Commons, saying the government believed it should proceed despite spiralling costs that could top £100bn.
He committed to both the London to Birmingham rail line and the next phase from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, saying he would integrate the project with a Leeds to Manchester train line known as Northern Powerhouse Rail.
However, he was critical of the management of the project, saying the company behind the project, HS2 Ltd, had “not made the task easier” and the costs “had exploded”.
Johnson said he would put a minister in charge of overseeing HS2 as a full time job to avoid “further blowouts”.
“The cabinet has given high-speed rail the green signal. We are going to get this done,” he said, adding that he hoped the first trains would run by the end of the decade.
The high-speed line’s growing price tag led Johnson to request a review of the scheme last summer, with Douglas Oakervee’s assessment due to be published on Tuesday.
The decision to go ahead will be controversial with many backbench Tory MPs whose constituencies are affected by the train line running through them.
However, there has been pressure on the government not to abandon HS2 from a number of regional politicians, including the West Midlands mayor, Andy Street.
It comes after the government unveiled a host of other regional transport policies, potentially in an attempt to head off expected criticism over the money that will eventually be spent on HS2.
More details soon…