I am pleased that Royal Assent was granted for Phase One of HS2. This paves the way for a new railway line that will increase capacity on our rail network, connect the biggest cities, and generate jobs and economic growth.
Britain's railways require additional capacity, and the Government believes that HS2 represents the most effective way of both alleviating pressure on the current network and ensuring capacity growth. With destinations including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and Crewe, HS2 is expected to relieve the East and West Coast mainlines of congestion by offering fast, direct services between major cities on new and improved lines.
Not only will HS2 significantly enhance intercity rail services, it will also drive regional regeneration and support job creation. It is supported by all the major conurbations that it will serve, as they recognise the key benefits that it will bring to their areas.
HS2 is likely to generate around 30,000 jobs during construction and 3,000 when the line is running. It will also support growth in the wider economy, worth an additional 100,000 jobs. I understand that the aim is also to create at least 2,000 apprenticeships, thereby boosting the next generation's skills base.
The National Audit Office has found the strategic case for HS2 to be convincing. Indeed, HS2 will deliver more than £2 of benefits for every £1 of investment, representing good value for money.
Phase One, between London Euston and Birmingham, will see the journey between Glasgow and London reduced by 45 minutes to under four hours, when it opens by 2027. Then by 2033, journey times between London and Glasgow and Edinburgh will be reduced to around 3 hours and 40 minutes.
The decision to award £6.6 billion of contracts to build Phase One of HS2 will support 16,000 jobs across the UK. This offers a real opportunity for the highly skilled Scottish companies that will be bidding for them. More than 100 Scottish business have already expressed interest, and businesses are still being encouraged to put bids in. High speed rail will open up further opportunities for Scottish businesses that export goods and services to England and Wales, as they reach their markets faster than ever before.
I am delighted that the Government is delivering on its promise to spread wealth beyond London and the south-east, and am convinced that its plans will unlock the full benefits of HS2 to Scotland.
Ensuring that the project strikes the right balance between the needs of affected communities and the environment, and the long-term needs of the country as a whole is essential. HS2 Ltd's Sustainability Policy commits to the protection of the environment through seeking to avoid significant adverse effects on communities, businesses and the environment, including the prevention of pollution.
The policy also commits to minimising impacts where they occur, and delivering enhancements as far as reasonably practicable to attain no net loss to the natural environment. I am pleased that a green corridor is being created alongside the railway, including the planting of seven million new trees and shrubs along the Phase One route from London to the West Midlands.
The Government is also committed to providing support for local communities whilst HS2 is constructed, first along the Phase One route. An overall £70 million funding package has been made available which will help enhance community facilities, improve access to the countryside, and help improve road and cycle safety in towns and villages along the HS2 Phase One route. It will support local economies where businesses may experience disruption from the construction of the line.
Last updated July 2019