British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pushed ahead with a high-speed rail project which is now expected to cost more than £100 billion (A$194bn).
Johnson confirmed the large scale infrastructure project he says will stir prosperity beyond the south of England, in a major play following Brexit, and prior to next month’s budget.
Known as the High Speed 2 rail line, the project plans to first link London with Birmingham, the largest city in the English Midlands, and reduce the travel time by about half an hour.
While the second phase of the project, will then split into two northbound routes connecting northern England.
Under the scheme, originally approved in 2017, trains would travel at a speed of up to 224 miles per hour faster than any rail service in Europe, and would accommodate up to 18 services an hour.
The project, once slated to cost $33 billion pounds (A$64bn), has since ballooned to $106 billion pounds (A$205bn).
Funds have already gone towards the transport infrastructure, with earlier preparatory work commencing in 2012.
The city centres of London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds will be connected by 555 kilometres of new high-speed railway track
The project’s first phase, from London to Birmingham, is set to go ahead within weeks.
The project’s second “Y shaped” phase will be built in the north to Manchester and Leeds.
While confirming the major infrastructure project, Boris described the move as “a transport revolution” that will “bring business and investment to left behind communities”, he said in parliament last week.
The project is marketed as “helping to bridge the north-south divide and link the country's major cities”.
Johnson, who won the December election due to strong support across northern England, noted that the project had been plagued by “poor management”, in his parliamentary notice, adding that “every great infrastructure project is opposed” at some stage.
Campaigners and environmentalists have criticised the project, saying it will damage wildlife and ancient woods.
Of the 52,000 ancient woodland sites in England, the High Speed Two (HS2), the company developing the HS2 network, said “43 will be affected by HS2’s route between London and Crewe”.
“And over 80 per cent of the total area of these 43 will remain intact and untouched by HS2,” it noted in a statement.
To date, the HS2 project’s timeline has been pushed back, with the Birmingham phase now aiming to be finished by 2031, and the northern cities connected by 2040.