LONDON — The British prime minister on Tuesday confirmed the High Speed 2 railway project will go ahead, despite spiraling costs and opposition from part of the ruling Conservative Party.
Branded Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, the Y-shaped HS2 rail line will first link London with Birmingham in the north of England and later with Manchester and Leeds.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Boris Johnson approved the whole line, but said he would explore options for saving costs, appoint a minister to oversee the project full time, and task a new ministerial oversight group with taking strategic decisions about it.
HS2’s original budget was £32.7 billion at 2011 prices, but the most recent estimates say it could cost up to £106 billion. Citing the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, Johnson said the costs of the first phase of the project could amount to between £35 billion and £45 billion in today’s prices.
“This country is being held back by its inadequate infrastructure,” Johnson told MPs, adding his government had the “guts to take the decision” to deliver prosperity across the U.K.
Britain may have invented the railways but the country has fallen behind in the roll-out of high-speed track.
“We face a historic choice,” he said. “We can try to get by with the existing route between north and south, condemning the next generation to overcrowding and standing up, or we can make the decision, no matter how difficult and controversial, that will deliver prosperity to every part of the country.”
Johnson decided to go ahead despite fierce opposition from his top adviser Dominic Cummings, an outspoken critic of the project,