HS2 Staffordshire route 'should be built six years early'
The route HS2 will take through Staffordshire should be built six years earlier than planned and direct trains from the Midlands to Europe axed, the project's new boss announced today.
HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins is calling on the government to bring forward work on the controversial high speed line so that the 45-mile Staffordshire is completed by 2027 instead of 2033.
>See the bottom of this article for LIVE updates from the HS2 press conference this morning.
The former Network Rail and Olympic boss also questions the need for a £700 million connection between HS2 and HS1 the Channel Tunnel Link - which will dash hopes in Birmingham where the new flagship Curzon Street station was due to have a designated international terminal to the Continent.
Sir David, who took up his £650,000 post in January, was tasked with transforming the public perception of the £50 billion project.
In the report he calls for the first phase of the project to be extended to a hub station in Crewe - which includes the route through Birmingham and Staffordshire - and be completed by 2027 to speed up benefits in the north.
He also calls on the government to reconsider the link between HS2 and HS1, stating it is outweighed by the need for more connections between northern cities.
And he wants a review of the plans at Euston station in London to be more ambitious.
However, no cost savings have been revealed.
He says uncertainty over the time frame of the project is the biggest threat to costs escalating.
He said: "HS2 is an enormous undertaking, but it is not an end in itself.
"If we do it right, it can be a catalyst for fundamental change at both a local and national level, up and down the country.
"It is ambitious because it needs to be, to meet the demands not just of the here and now, but of the future. That means being more ambitious about going further north, sooner. More ambitious too about producing a coherent transport plan for the North as a whole. And more ambitious about Euston to create a station that lasts.
"I firmly believe that HS2 is essential for the future of this country, and I recognise the political vision and courage on
all sides that have been necessary to get us to this point."
Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2, said: "David Higgins has spent three months looking for cost savings for HS2 and he hasn't found a single bean. Any pretence that the costs of HS2 are under control are a fraudulent attempt to con the public.
"In fact all he has done is take off the link to Europe but the costs have stayed same.
"We know that these costs will continue to escalate. The only answer is to cancel the project and go back to the drawing board right now."
> Reporter Rob Golledge tweets LIVE:
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