Boris Johnson risks furious Tory backlash as he gives the go-ahead to HS2

Posted On: 
11th February 2020

Boris Johnson is to give the green light to the entire High Speed 2 rail line - despite concern from Tory MPs about the project's spiralling costs.

The Prime Minister has previously hinted that he will 'keep digging' on HS2 despite 'hopeless' management of the project.

The BBC reports that the Prime Minister will on Tuesday announce that the rail link, which joins London to Birmingham and Manchester to Leeds, will be built in full following a review of the project.

But the Government will order a study of the  project's second phase in a bid to cut costs and find ways to link it with existing lines.

Boris Johnson vows to 'keep digging' on HS2 despite 'profligate' spending on controversial rail link

Projects like HS2 need to be measured on economic and social benefits

HS2 must unlock its transformative opportunities

The Prime Minister last month dropped a clear hint that he would push ahead with the scheme in the wake of a report from the public spending watchdog which found that HS2 was "over budget and behind schedule".

Speaking to pupils during a primary school visit, he said: "Now the truth is, the people who did it spent far too much money, they were profligate with the way they did it. Do you know what I mean by profligate? They just wasted money. 

"And the whole way it was managed was hopeless."

But, he added: "So we’re in a hole, we’re in a mess. But we’ve got to get out of it. And we need a way forward, so we’re thinking about how to sort it out now."

And he said: "In a hole the size of HS2, the only thing to do is keep digging... That’s what you’ve got to do. It’s a big hole."

The move has already been welcomed by Henri Murison, who heads up the Northern Powerhouse Partnership group that campaigns for more investment in the north of England.

"The North’s civic and business leaders have argued tirelessly that major infrastructure investment is so badly needed to provide the extra capacity urgently required on our rail network," he said.

"The Northern Powerhouse Independent Review on HS2 showed when published last year that there were no identified credible alternatives to HS2 and by better integrating the last phase with Northern Powerhouse Rail we will ensure that we get the maximum possible benefits. It is very encouraging that their recommendations are mirrored by the government’s own review published today."

But the decision will spark anger from the Conservative benches,  with almost Tory 60 MPs already joining the 'HS2 Review Group'  demanding a rethink.

The group - which includes both newly-elected Tory MPs and party grandees  - has argued that the business case for HS2 has been "increasingly weakened" by rising costs.

In a letter to the Prime Minister in the wake of the election, they warned: "It is not too late for the Government to change course. We have many new colleagues who have campaigned against or are seriously concerned about the future of this project."

In 2015, it was estimated that the cost of HS2 would be £56bn. 

But a leaked government review predicted that this soar to as much as £106bn.

The expected announcement comes alongside a promised £5bn boost for bus and cycling routes outside of London, with Mr Johnson saying: "Local transport connections have a truly transformative role to play in levelling up infrastructure across the country."