HS2 protesters climb onto office block next to Euston
Meanwhile, the Tory MP for Lichfield in the West Midlands has lamented the environmental damage caused by the project, which is projected to cost more than £100billion, as a result of a massive tunnelling operation. Nevertheless, the development reached another significant milestone today with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps giving the go-ahead for HS2’s first west London station.
High Speed 2 will be the second high-speed rail link in the UK, with the first being the 67-mile route that connects London to the Channel Tunnel.
Construction on the first phase, between Birmingham and London, is already underway, with the new railway eventually scheduled to link up with Manchester and Glasgow as well.
The project has been dogged with controversy – but was nevertheless greenlit by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year.
Tory MP Michael Fabricant
HS2 is cutting through ancient woodland
The decision came barely a month after a leaked report written by former HS2 chairman Doug Oakervee warned costs, estimated at £56billion in 2015, were likely to soar to £106billion.
Mr Fabricant told Express.co.uk: “Perhaps the main criticism of HS2, apart from its staggering cost, is its lack of connectivity.
“The original green agenda was to encourage people to take the train, rather than fly from, say, Manchester to Paris.
“HS2’s original route was direct service – Manchester Piccadilly to Paris Gare De Nord.
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Boris Johnson during a visit to the HS2 site in Birmingham in February
“Now, there are so many changes of station, it is still quicker to fly.”
Mr Fabricant added: “Also, the original route would have used existing transport corridors, such as the M4, which would have saved tunnelling costs of several billion and would have prevented the need for the line to crash through so many of our ancient woodlands and unspoiled countryside.
“My fear is that HS2 will end up like my old Hornby train set, very pretty, but not really connected to anything.
“Of course, one of the arguments for HS2 is to relieve capacity problems on the West Coast Main Line.
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Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps looks on at engineering works at Old Oak Common today
“It does beg the question whether new ways of working learned from the COVID lockdown will mean fewer commuter trips, by office workers and so, relieve the capacity issues, which HS2 is meant to address.”
Mr Shapps will today visit the site at Old Oak Common, which will support more than 2,300 jobs.
It will be the UK’s largest railway station built in a single stage.
He said: “The start of permanent works at the largest train station ever built in the UK in one go, Old Oak Common, marks yet more progress in delivering HS2, the high-speed, high-capacity and low-carbon railway that will form the backbone of our national transport network.
“This ‘super hub’ station shows our Plan for Jobs in action – kickstarting major regeneration, creating 2,300 jobs and 250 apprenticeships in construction – and underlines this Government’s determination to build back better.”
The launch of permanent works at the 32-acre site will involve a 1.1-mile-long wall being built underground as part of the installation of six HS2 platforms.
HS2 Ltd said the station will offer “unrivalled connectivity”, with six HS2 platforms for services to the Midlands and the North, four Crossrail platforms, and four mainline rail platforms served by trains to and from the South West and South Wales.
The station will feature a roof covering the area of more than three football pitches.
HS2 has proved highly controversial
HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said: “The start of permanent works at Old Oak Common station, our first station under construction, is a significant step for phase one of HS2, as we deliver world-leading engineering to create what will arguably be one of the best-connected railway super hubs in the UK.”
The Financial Times reported on Monday that HS2’s costs have jumped by another £1.7 billion in the past year as the coronavirus pandemic adds further pressure to the project.
The scheme’s £44.6 billion budget for phase one between London and Birmingham includes £5.6 billion of contingency funds.
A Department for Transport spokesman said final assessments of the impact of the pandemic “have not been made”.