The Chancellor has told MPs that the exact route HS2 will take from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds will be announced in the new year.
Today, during his Autumn Statement, George Osborne signalled his support for HS2 – and, contrary to expectation, the section that is due to open in 2033 will be revealed next year and not this side of Christmas.
The section from London-Birmingham is due to open in 2026 and the route has already been announced.
A Department for Transport spokesman told The Bucks Herald that today’s announcement is not related to an ongoing High Court legal challenge – which claims the Government acted unlawfully when it approved HS2 before revealing how both sections of the route would look. The results of the judicial reviews will be announced in the new year.
Meanwhile on Tuesday David Prout was confirmed as the new Director General of HS2, which means he has the job of getting the plans through Parliament.
The brand new position involves overseeing high speed rail plans for the Department for Transport, he will not work for HS2 Ltd.
Mr Prout, the current director general at the Department of Communities and Local Government, said he ‘looked forward’ to the challenge of ‘demonstrating the very real need for more capacity for people and freight on our railways’
His comments were made less than 24 hours after one of the key arguments for building HS2 appeared to have been blown out of the water in the High Court.
On Monday it was revealed that the Department for Transport’s own figures showed that peak time trains on one of Britain’s busiest rail routes, the West Coast Main Line, were leaving Euston only half full.
Opponents of HS2 claimed it showed that Britain’s railways are ‘not full’ and could be improved.
Supporters said the figures showed more about the current ticketing system – citing examples of off-peak trains being full as commuters tried to save money.
Stop HS2 spokesman Joe Rukin said; “We have an extremely strong case against HS2 and it is time that the Government looked at the facts and cancelled HS2 immediately.
“The problem has always been that no-one has been interested in doing things properly, they have just been interested in doing things quickly.”
Pete Waterman, pop mogul and high-speed rail supporter, said: “I travel at peak time. I don’t recognise these ‘half full’ trains that opponents of HS2 are talking about.
“When I get on my train at Crewe they’re full to standing. I don’t know what trains opponents of HS2 are travelling on, but they aren’t the same packed trains that commuters along the West Coast Main Line are sadly all too familiar with”.