The Scottish Mail on Sunday
HS2stillontrack...PMgives go-ahead despite Tory splits
THE Prime Minister is expected to finally give the go-ahead to HS2 on Tuesday, despite splits in his party and in Downing Street over the spiralling costs.
Mr Johnson is understood to have concluded that while some estimates put the final bill at more than £100billion, approving it will show his commitment to both the Northern English areas that voted in scores of new Tory MPs last December, and to the grand infrastructure projects he hopes will be among the legacies of his premiership.
Mr Johnson is likely to say that the London-Birmingham section of the route should be allowed to proceed, as should the proposed Birmingham-Crewe upgrade.
Further sections to Manchester and Leeds will be put under review. The move will form part of what No 10 describes as a major infrastructure package to ‘level up connectivity around the country’.
The news comes as Government sources say that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will retain his post in this Thursday’s Cabinet reshuffle, after Downing Street declared itself to be ‘impressed by his grip on the portfolio and his disciplined approach to media’.
The announcements follow a series of meetings between Mr Johnson and backbenchers about the priorities in their constituencies. Other parts of the package may include funding for 5G pilot schemes in rural areas ‘to spark a tech revolution in the countryside’, and for projects such as the use of drone technology to improve farming processes.
West Midlands Trains will also be asked to deliver a £20 million package of improvements to make up for recent poor performance, with money set to be spent on reducing delays, compensating passengers and recruiting drivers.
A No10 source said: ‘The PM understands the responsibility he has to deliver for everyone who put their trust in the Conservatives in the Election.
‘That means transforming the transport and infrastructure links in local areas, particularly in the North.’