HS2 action delayed

6 December 2011

The UK Government has delayed its High Speed Two (HS2) decision until mid-January. Transport Secretary Justine Greening will consider the merits of a GBP 500M (USD 782M) tunnel through the Chiltern Hills to the north of London.

The Secretary was expected to make a decision before Parliament’s winter break.

The GBP 32bn (USD 50.04bn) project’s alignment has attracted criticism for cutting through countryside of ‘outstanding beauty’. Lobby group ‘Campaign to Protect Rural England’ said it welcomed an increased portion of the alignment to be placed in tunnels.

The 100-mile (161km) link would be built over 10 years. Construction would begin in 2016. The decision to reconsider the route followed a House of Commons Transport Committee report in November. The Government said that changes to the plan would have to be funded by savings elsewhere along the route.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said, "By accepting that the current proposals on the table are not right, the government has opened up a real opportunity to get this vital project right.

"It's a welcome start but ministers should now go further, stop being dogmatic and use this pause to finally take up our offer to work together on a long-term strategy for both high-speed rail and aviation."

A Campaign to protect Rural England spokesman added, “A spokesman said: "We are concerned, by suggestions that the additional GBP 500M (USD 782M) will come from cutting back on mitigation measures elsewhere on the route. Just because countryside is not nationally designated does not mean it should not be valued and protected.