High-speed rail decision delayed


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The Independent Online

The Government today confirmed that it would be delaying an announcement on whether to go ahead with the HS2 high-speed rail project.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening had been due to make an announcement on the £32 billion scheme before Christmas.

But today she said that there would be no announcement this year but added that she expected to announce her decisions "in January (2012)".

There has been much support and also bitter opposition to the HS2 scheme, that would see a brand new high-speed line built from London through picturesque Tory heartlands to Birmingham.

A second, Y-shaped route taking the line north of Birmingham to north-west and north-east England and on to Scotland is envisaged once the London-Birmingham route is completed around 2026.

News that Ms Greening would be delaying her decision leaked out last weekend amid speculation that she was now considering a £500 million tunnel for a section of the route through the Chilterns.

In her statement today, Ms Greening did not mention the tunnel, but such a move could help the Government win over some of those opposed to the the scheme, who include some Tory MPs.

Ms Greening said today: "Since taking up office in October, I have been considering the issues raised as part of the consultation and additionally have listened to the views of honourable members.

"In order to ensure that my decision is based on a careful consideration of all relevant factors, I have concluded that I should allow myself until early in 2012 to announce my decisions.

"I am therefore notifying the House that I will not be making a further statement on the subject of high-speed rail this year, but I expect to announce my decisions in January."

HS2 has sparked more debate - and possibly more vitriol - than practically any other transport scheme.

The House of Commons Transport Committee, in a recent report on the project, was moved to call on both sides to end the name-calling which has seen those opposed to the plan described as Nimbys and Luddites.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, who is MP for the Buckinghamshire seat of Chesham and Amersham, is among those against HS2.

According to reports today, Attorney General Dominic Grieve has also expressed concerns about the scheme.