HS2 welcome but limited

08 May 2013

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF the train drivers’ union, said today that he welcomed the part of the Queen’s Speech that will ‘transform HS2 from being a theoretical concept and make it an active project’. However, he regrets ‘the lack of vision and imagination’ that means the new line will not travel the length of the country.

‘The longer the journey, the greater are the benefits of a high speed train,’ Mick said. ‘A fast line from the south of England up to Scotland would make domestic air travel, with all its adverse environmental effects, a much less attractive option.’ Mick has previously argued that the line building should begin in Scotland and London at the same time, joining up in the middle of the country – but for the foreseeable future the Midlands is to be the end of the line.

However, Mick said his union was pleased that the project was now underway. The Queen’s Speech today included the granting of Parliamentary permission to build a £16.3bn line from London to Birmingham, and the powers to operate it. Construction will begin in 2016. The first trains should run on it a decade later.

A further Bill establishes the financial powers to proceed with a second phase that will take the line to Leeds and Manchester,but further laws will need to be passed before construction can take place.This phase is scheduled to be completed by 2033.

The Queen told MPs and peers that the HS2 project would provide ‘further opportunities for economic growth in many of Britain's cities’.

‘I’m sure Her Majesty will be delighted to know I agree with her on this!’ Mick says. ‘But we still believe that with more courage and imagination it could offer these benefits to more of our cities.’

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