HS2: rail link clears Commons hurdle as MPs approve funding
Bill releasing funds to prepare ground for HS2 passes; new study will probe benefits for Scotland
MPS have approved a bill that releases the funds required to begin work on HS2, and set up a study to ascertain how the £50bn rail link can benefit Scotland.
The massive project cleared a significant hurdle yesterday when the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill passed the House. Although 17 Tories and 11 Labour members voted against it, the bill "easily cleared the House, moving the controversial rail line a step closer to becoming a reality", the BBC reports.
The legislation "releases funds to pay for surveys, buy property and compensate evicted residents". It will now be scrutinised by the House of Lords.
While opposition to HS2 among some rank-and-file Tories is entrenched, Labour has supported the project until recently. Last month the shadow chancellor Ed Balls accused the coalition of "mismanaging" the scheme and warned there would be "no blank cheque" for HS2 if he became chancellor.
Speaking in Wolverhampton, David Cameron said political agreement was essential to the project's success. He said he hoped Labour would "see sense, stop talking about pulling the plug on [the project] and get behind it".
Calling for unity, he said: "We do need some national consensus over this. We need everyone to get behind it."
Meanwhile, the government has announced a study to see how Scotland can reap the benefits of HS2.
Journey times between London and Scotland are set to be reduced by 48 minutes when phase one of HS2 - the line between the capital and the West Midlands - opens in 2026. The opening of phase two - the Y-shaped line from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds - in 2032/33, will shave another 22 minutes off the journey which takes four hours and 48 minutes at present.
UK transport minister Baroness Kramer said the project would "bring the UK together". ·