BTN Europe presents an overview of business travel and MICE predictions for this year
The government has approved the controversial HS2 project to continue as planned despite concerns over rising costs.
Prime minister Boris Johnson told Parliament on Tuesday: “We face a historic choice. 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.”
Opponents of the project say the plans are dangerous for the environment and have also raised concerns over the total cost, which reportedly could rise to as much as £106 billion – nearly double the initial budget set out in 2015.
Johnson said he will appoint a full-time government minister to oversee HS2 in order to “restore discipline to the programme”.
UK citizens across the country whose properties will need to be demolished to make way for the line are also angry about the project.
Lord Berkeley, the former deputy chair of a government-commissioned review of HS2, released his own report recommending the plans be scrapped, but the official report written by chairman Doug Oakervee suggests going ahead with the project.
Work on the initial phase linking London and Birmingham has been ongoing throughout the review, though the project is running up to five years behind schedule.
Some experts have suggested the second phase – a line from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds – could be made cheaper by incorporating it into Northern Powerhouse Rail developments, but Johnson has said in he past that he would hesitate to cancel a project of “great national importance”.
According to the BBC, a source close to HS2 said Johnson will also be announcing a series of other transport projects, particularly in the north of England and the Midlands, in line with his campaign promise to improve regional connectivity.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has already announced plans to reverse Beeching-era railway cuts starting with a £500 million fund for local authorities to begin reinstating services that were axed more than 50 years ago.
Shapps has also been hitting back a private rail companies for failing to address disruption to services, renationalising the Northern Rail franchise and threatening South Western Railway with the same fate, as well as ordering West Midlands Trains to spend £20 million on improving its performance.
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