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Major high-speed rail infrastructure project gets green light

11 January 2012

Posted by Michelle Devonshire

The Government has granted approval for the UK's high-speed rail network between London and the north of England.

Initially, work will commence on the first phase of the HS2 project, which will see a line created between the capital and Birmingham.

Announcing the decision, Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, stated that the new route is scheduled to be in operation by 2026.

She explained the scheme would provide essential new capacity on the UK network and speed up journey times for commuters, with trains of up to 250 mph carrying up to 26,000 passengers per hour.

"More than a century ago the Victorians built railways that continue to serve us to this day and just over 50 years ago the post-war generation chose to invest in motorways, bringing higher road capacity and faster journeys to millions," Ms Greening declared.

"Both transformed the economic and social fabric of this country: HS2 is our generation’s investment in Britain and our children."

Connections are planned between the high-speed network and the West Coast and East Coast main lines, with a Y-shaped design with two branches running from Birmingham up to Leeds and Manchester anticipated. This will form the second phase of the construction project and is scheduled to be completed by 2033.

The high-speed line is expected to generate £6.2 billion in additional economic benefits, while a series of mitigation measures have been announced to reduce its impact on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as it traverses 13 miles of it.

There has been some opposition to the plans amid concerns about their potential environmental impact and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has stressed the need for disruption and negative impacts to communities of the project to be minimized.

Its UK head of policy Jeremy Blackburn, while welcoming the report, said capacity provided by HS2 should be used to its full passenger and freight advantages, with careful environmental management, cost planning and data benchmarking needed to ensure its success.

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