Boris Johnson finally gives £106 billion high-speed rail-link HS2 the green light – The Sun

BORIS Johnson has finally given the £106 billion high-speed rail-link HS2 the green light.

The Prime Minister made the announcement in the Commons, and promised it would give Brits "more time with your family".

Mr Johnson said that despite "poor management" he believes in the "fundamental value" of HS2, as he gave the go-ahead to the rail scheme.

He said: "Today the Cabinet has given high-speed rail the green signal – we are going to get this done.

"When it comes to advocating HS2, it must be said that the task is not made easier by HS2 Ltd, the company concerned.

"Speaking as an MP whose constituency is on the route, I cannot say that HS2 Ltd has distinguished itself in the handling of local communities.

"But poor management to date has not detracted, in my view, from the fundamental value of the project."

The PM insisted the country was being "held back by its infrastructure", and vowed a "transport revolution".

He said: “We know that efficient transport can clean the air and cut pollution.

“We can shorten your commute, and give you more time with your family.”

The budget for the new rail network has just been nearly doubled from the 2015 original estimate of £56bn to an eyewatering £106bn- over half of the total government annual Infrastructure and Construction budget for 2018/19, which covered 31 other major projects.

The budget increase has been caused by a mixture of management issues, tricky soil conditions and unrealistic land valuation.

Vowing to get on top of the issue, Mr Johnson also unveiled plans for a minister solely focused on HS2.

He said: "I will be appointing a minister whose full-time job will be to oversee the project. A new ministerial oversight group will be tasked with taking strategic decisions about it.

"There will be changes to the way HS2 is managed. We will, in line with Mr Oakervee's recommendations, be interrogating the current cost to identify where savings can be made in phase one without the cost and delays that would be associated with a detailed redesign."

The PM claimed the nation was facing a "historic choice".

He said: "We can try to get by with the existing route between north and south, condemning the next generation to overcrowding and standing up, or we can make the decision no matter how difficult and controversial that will deliver prosperity to every part of the country".

The move will spark fury from Tory MPs, many of whom had repeatedly labelled the scheme a waste of money.

Speaking today, Andrew Brigden claimed it would hurt the PM's reputation in Tory heartlands.

He said: "I think it will be an albatross around this government's neck, the Labour party will vote for it because it's a stick with which they will beat the government for many years to come.

"HS2 is unloved, unwanted and has been grossly mismanaged. It very adversely affects my constituents."

Tory Alexander Stafford, MP for Rother Valley, called it an “obscene waste” and the funds should go to “infrastructure we need in the North".

Last month the Conservative benches roared "No" when Mr Johnson was asked if he agreed that HS2 should go ahead during Prime Minister's Questions.

It has also been blasted by environmental organisations who say it will cause huge damage to natural habitats.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said: "Our nature and wildlife is being wiped out at a terrifying rate and projects like HS2 add yet more harm.

"This is not protecting the environment for future generations, it is destroying huge areas of irreplaceable natural habitat. "

Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance added: "This announcement is a massive blow to the taxpayers of today and tomorrow who will be left paying for the HS2 white elephant with no light at the end of the tunnel."

A route map of HS2 – the yellow links have been suspended.

The shadow minister for transport has called for HS2 to run "under public ownership" when it opens.

Andy McDonald tweeted: "The public are spending a lot of money on HS2.

"When it opens, services should be run under public ownership, so taxpayers see a return on their investment rather than lining the pockets of private or foreign state-owned companies."

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