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Transport Secretary confirms HS2 start date

‘Y’ network construction to begin in 2017 and Government planning Hybrid Bill.

The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLaughlin, has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to build high-speed rail links in the north of England.

In his speech at Leeds Civic Hall, which was his first since retaining his position as Transport Secretary, Mr McLaughlin confirmed that the Government will carry on with its plans to close the ‘decades-old economic gap between south and north’ – something which is well underway with unemployment having fallen by a fifth and with the north growing faster than London per person.

With £13Bn of Government funding to transform northern transport in this Parliament, confirmation of the start of High Speed 2 (HS2) was given by Mr McLaughlin who said work will commence in 2017.

Plans for high-speed east-west rail links are well underway too, and much was said about it being important how the money is being invested, rather than simply discussing the amount. With that in mind, the Transport Secretary said that power would be moving to the cities and away from Whitehall.

Significantly, by autumn, the Transport for the North (TfN) will have a “new independent chair.” Set up to create the Northern Transport Strategy with the Government, this body and its new chair will “truly speak on behalf of the north with one voice.

“That means a shared vision for trains and buses. For passengers using public transport. For reducing road congestion, and speeding up links to ports and airports.”

An upgrade on the road network was spoken about too, which will bring “massive benefits” to the north and undoubtedly, many construction opportunities.

Moving on to HS2, Mr McLaughlin declared that the General Election result was a “massive vote of confidence” for this project and said that the ‘Y’ network will be constructed, from London to Birmingham and from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, with work starting in two years.

The Transport Secretary outlined the benefits to this development, adding: “HS2 will change the transport architecture in the north. But it will also change the economic architecture.

“Seven out of ten jobs created will be outside London, with the north and Midlands gaining at least double the benefits of the south. In fact, those benefits are already starting to happen.

“HSBC’s decision to move its retail bank headquarters from London to Birmingham is just one example.”

The Hybrid Bill for HS2 Phase I has been carried over from the last Parliament and was re-presented next week, with the Parliamentary Select Committee set to look at Bill number one upon resumption.

However, the Transport Secretary said that Phase II is becoming an increasing priority, and as such, a dedicated Hybrid Bill is being prepared to bring HS2 to the north as soon as possible.

He said: “We’ll make our Phase II announcements this autumn. We’re looking at ways of using the HS2 line to introduce faster regional services, and at the case for speeding up construction of the Sheffield to Leeds section.

“HS2 will allow us to reorganise and improve commuter routes across Yorkshire, and we’re moving forward with plans for new high-speed rail links, running right across the north, from Liverpool in the west to Hull in the east.”

These high-speed rail services will link the likes of Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle by providing huge reductions in travel times, increasing the number of trains available, improving customer experience and generally connecting the north economically.