Boris Johnson has given the green light to a £5bn “transport revolution” and HS2.
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons in a statement at lunchtime that the government would spend £5bn on local bus and cycle networks.
He also announced a commitment to building the HS2 rail link and backed Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) which could improve connectivity from Newcastle to other cities in the north.
Speaking in the Commons, the Prime Minister said: “That investment will mean bus passengers across the country seeing a dramatic improvement in their daily journeys, with more than 4,000 zero-carbon, British-built buses, on the roads.
“This is about finally making a rapid connection from the west midlands to the Northern Powerhouse – to Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds – and simultaneously permitting us to go forward with Northern Powerhouse Rail across the Pennines, finally giving the home of the railways the fast connections they need.”
It is hoped that the plans would improve the frequency and journey times of bus services here in the North East and introduce cheaper, simpler ticketing.
Seeking reassurance, Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah asked the PM today: “Will this funding bring north-eastern bus fares into line with those in London” to which he promised cheaper fares nationwide.
Barry White, the CEO of Transport for the North, the body seeking investment in NPR, told SR news: “The green light to get on and build HS2 is the right decision for the UK. […] We want to see full commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail in the National Infrastructure Strategy due to be published on budget day – the most transformational solution connecting our major towns and cities from Liverpool to Hull and the North East.
“Doing so would slash journey times in the North, spark economic growth and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.”
However, Jamie Peters of Friends of the Earth branded the PM’s decision a “costly and damaging mistake”, adding: “[HS2] will threaten wildlife, destroy ancient woodlands and do nothing to reduce climate-wrecking pollution.”
The HS2 rail link will connect London to Birmingham and then carry on to Manchester and Leeds in the second phase. HS2 trains are expected to continue on the existing track up to Newcastle. The project has previously come under fire for already being over budget after the Oakervee review suggested the total cost could exceed £100bn.
Johnson is expected to carry out a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday including a newly appointed minister for delivering HS2.