Construction on the controversial HS2 rail line linking Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and London finally commences this weekend – with the government suggesting it could create 22,000 jobs.
The full network will see trains travel at 225 mph spread over 330 miles – with work anticipated to take around twenty years to complete.
The first phase – which will connect Crewe, the new Birmingham Curzon Street, Birmingham Interchange, and London Euston – is set to launch by 2031.
Manchester Piccadilly will also undergo renovations as part of the work, as HS2 becomes the second high-speed rail line in the UK (with the existing High Speed 1 connecting London and the Channel Tunnel).
Since being revealed over ten years ago, HS2 has been plagued with delays and invited considerable criticism from some parties – who are campaigning for improved connections in northern England where services have been notoriously slow and unreliable for several years.
Originally tipped to cost around £37.5 billion, the current estimates are that HS2 will end up toppling the £100 billion mark.
A campaign group called Stop HS2 has been set up in an attempt to halt work on the rail line, whilst Extinction Rebellion are set to protest the service at Manchester Piccadilly this morning (4 September).
However, Boris Johnson has continued to back the project.
“By creating hundreds of apprenticeships and thousands of skilled jobs, HS2 will fire up economic growth and help to rebalance opportunity across this country for years to come,” the Prime Minister argued.
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: “Trying to spin HS2 as a job creation scheme is beyond desperate…
“Creating 22,000 jobs works out at almost £2m just to create a single job.”
But today work officially begins, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps calling it a “major milestone”.
“Shovels in the ground to deliver this new railway means thousands of jobs building the future of our country’s infrastructure,” he commented.
“This fantastic moment is what leaders across the North and Midlands have called for – action to level up our country by boosting capacity on our railways, improving connections between our regions, and spreading prosperity.”