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HS2 line to open six years early BUT funding soars to £55bn

Birmingham | News | Published:

The controversial HS2 rail line which will cut through miles of Staffordshire countryside is set to open six years ahead of schedule, the Chancellor announced today.

George Osborne said the route, which will link Crewe with Birmingham, will open in 2027.

It came as he visited the Jaguar Land Rover Manufacturing Centre in Coven, South Staffordshire, to pledge £16.6m in funding to create 200 highly skilled engineering and manufacturing jobs in the Midlands.

Phase 2a of HS2 will run from Birmingham to Crewe, passing through Staffordshire. It had originally been due to open in 2033, but the Chancellor announced today that it will open six years earlier.

Critics have branded the line a 'dreadful waste of money', with many concerned that it will tear up vast sections of the Staffordshire countryside.

Once complete the entire line will be the most expensive in the world.

Trevor Forrester, of the Staffordshire Against HS2 group, said bringing the job forward was a Government bid to cut 'acceleration costs' that he says have spiralled out of control.

"They think that by throwing an extra £5bn at this white elephant they can try and save on costs going forward," he said.

"That money won't even touch it. When you take into account inflation HS2 will end up costing the country £100bn. This is nothing more than a desperate attempt to cut costs, but it won't work.

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"This is money we simply can't afford."

Mr Forrester said it was 'disgraceful' that people had been kept in the dark for so long over the precise route of the line.

"What we need to know is not the extra money that is being spent or that the job will be finished six years early," he said.

"We need to know exactly where this track is going to be placed. People are sitting in their properties not knowing if it is going through them or around them, which is disgraceful."

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This morning Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin was due to publish a command paper setting out his route decision on Phase 2a.

Once the work is complete journey times between Crewe and London will be reduced by 45 minutes, Manchester to London will see 40 minutes off journeys and Glasgow to London will be 48 minutes quicker.

The first phase of HS2 from London to Birmingham is due to be completed in 2026.

The Chancellor was also expected to announce today that CBI director general John Cridland would be taking on the role of chairing Transport for the North.

Recently it emerged that HS2 employed 46 staff on more money than the Prime Minister.

There was also good news for Caparo workers in the Black Country, after investors Caparo Tubular Solutions (CTS), saving 300 jobs in Bilston and Oldbury.

The HS2 route through Staffordshire was originally due to open in 2033. The Chancellor announced during his Spending Review that funding for the project had gone up up £5.1 billion to £55.7bn.

Mr Osborne said today: "In my Spending Review we committed to the biggest rise in transport spending in a generation meaning that major projects like the construction of HS2, to link the Northern Powerhouse to the South, can begin.

"Bringing forward this part of the HS2 route by six years is a massive step in the right direction for the Northern Powerhouse where high speed rail will play a big role in connecting up the entire region with the rest of the country."

A start date has not yet been revealed for the HS2 building work - but it is expected to be brought forward in the light of this announcement.

The new funding for jobs at JLR comes hot on the heels of the firm unveiling its £450m plan to double the size of its engine factory.

Mr Osborne said the JLR-led research consortium would receive a £16.6m grant to develop a 'more efficient transmission system' for potential use in future models of their cars.

This grant will be matched by private funding, bringing the total project funding to over £33m, he added.

"I'm determined to build on the success of Britain's Engine for Growth in the Midlands, and today's announcement is a crucial step in our plan," Mr Osborne said.

"In the Spending Review I set out how we're making significant investments in the Midlands, across transport, energy and culture.

"This grant is a further example of how this Government is backing businesses in the Midlands to grow and create jobs and support working people at every stage of their lives."

The cash will create an initial 60 roles in research and development, and if successful could lead to the creation of a further 130 manufacturing and engineering roles.

The new funding will also ensure the security of a further 150 roles. The grant is being awarded through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) and is matched by funding from the automotive industry.

Dr Wolfgang Epple, director of research and technology, at JLR, welcomed the funding boost.

He said: "This innovative research will investigate the feasibility of potential future transmission technologies.

"The collaborative research programmes we lead bring together some of the best engineering minds in the UK and allow us to multiply the effect of our investment and nurture UK-based technology investment.

"This approach is helping to develop the skills and technologies that will make the UK even more competitive."

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