HS2 construction to start in 2017

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Building of the controversial £50 billion High Speed 2 rail line will begin in 2017, the government has confirmed.

And MPs are set to debate plans for HS2, which will connect London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester with 225mph trains, to go through tunnels near Lichfield, passing under the West Coast Main Line and South Staffordshire, rather than use viaducts.

A motion has been laid in Parliament instructing the HS2 Select Committee to consider more than 120 changes the government wishes to make to the HS2 hybrid bill.

The changes follow discussions between HS2 Ltd, the government funded company set up to deliver the project, and communities along the route between London and Birmingham.

Transport minister Robert Goodwill said: "This motion is a major step forward both in terms of getting HS2 through Parliament and getting this vital railway built.

"The changes to the bill show the government is listening to communities along the HS2 route. By working together, we can ensure this vital railway is designed in the right way, so we have spades in the ground in 2017 as planned."

Tunnelling near Lichfield would mean the railway will now pass under the A38, the West Coast Main Line and the South Staffordshire line rather than run over them on viaducts, which the government says will avoid the need for two crossings over the Trent and Mersey Canal.

The hybrid bill, the legislation permitting HS2 to go ahead, is on course to be signed off with Royal Assent by the end of 2016.

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