Work on eastern leg of HS2 stops
Work on the eastern leg of high-speed rail project HS2 has stopped, according to its chief executive. The Department for Transport has told officials on the scheme to stop working on the project which will see the link extended from Birmingham to Leeds via the East Midlands. Work on the other elements continues.
HS2’s chief executive Mark Thurston said: “We wait to be guided by the Department on what we do with the eastern link.” Construction work on phase one of HS2 between Birmingham and London is well under way, including on the four new stations which will serve the line.
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Visit our email preference centre to sign up to all the latest news from BusinessLive. Phase 2a will run between Birmingham and Crewe while phase 2b comprises Crewe to Manchester and the section between Birmingham, the East Midlands and Leeds from where it will switch to conventional tracks to serve the North East. The Government ordered a review of the scheme, with a decision to be published in a document called the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands.
This was due out by the end of last year but has been delayed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously said he was committed to building the whole of HS2. As well as connectivity, manufacturing is also a factor with HS2, with British Steel eyeing up rail and other infrastructure requirements and the new Siemens Mobility train factory at Goole bidding to build rolling stock.
Mr Thurston told a House of Commons inquiry that High Speed Two Ltd, the Government-owned company building the network, had initially worked on the North West section and North East sections of the line as a single project.
But he added: “At the moment, we are only working on phase 2b west. “We are only focused on that. The company has been asked by the Department for Transport to focus on the route into Manchester and the eastern leg will play out in the fullness of time.
We expect it to be part of the Integrated Rail Plan. “We are focused on producing a budget and a plan, working on the hybrid bill to get Royal Assent somewhere around 2024 or 2025, subject to parliamentary timetables, for the section to Manchester. “That is where our focus is at the moment.
The company is not doing any work on anything else at the moment.” He said the original plan was that the whole of phase 2b would be done as one integrated project. “That is not now playing out that way,” he said.
“We are taking the western link now as a very discrete project and we wait to be guided by the Department on what we do with the eastern link.”
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Asked what he expected to see in the Integrated Rail Plan, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street told the inquiry: “An absolute commitment to the western leg of phase 2b. “I am realistic that there will probably be a serious delay in the eastern leg of 2b. I believe the Government will still commit to doing it but will not be specific about the timing of when.
“Let’s be honest, we all know that the Government has to make an incredibly difficult decision about priorities. I think I have been as vociferous as anybody in this kingdom in arguing for the full HS2. “People have accused me of all sorts of things but we have to face the reality that we now have which is that difficult decisions have to be made.”
He said he expected the Government to approve the proposed GBP2 billion Midlands Rail Hub which will create additional rail services between the West Midlands and East Midlands destinations such as Leicester, Nottingham and Derby.
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