Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has set out the urgent need for a new high speed, high capacity railway line to give Britain the infrastructure it needs.
The Transport Secretary has confirmed that the government is committed to pressing ahead with HS2 to tackle the looming capacity crisis the rail network faces and to help boost jobs and regeneration along the line of the route and across the country. Construction is due to begin on the scheme in the first half of next year.
He has also today (11 October 2016) confirmed plans to make £70 million of government funds available to support local communities and road safety along the route between London and the West Midlands.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:
We need HS2 now more than ever.
We’re facing a rapidly approaching crunch-point. In the last 20 years alone, the number of people travelling on our railways has more than doubled and our rail network is the most intensively used of any in Europe.
We need HS2 for the capacity it will bring on the routes between London, the West Midlands, Crewe, Leeds and Manchester as well as the space it’ll create elsewhere on our transport network.
We need it for the boost it will give to our regional and national economies.
And we need it for the jobs it will create, and for the way it will link our country together.
The £70 million is made of 3 separate funds:
- the HS2 Community and Environment Fund (CEF)
- the Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF), which together total £40 million
- £30 million road safety fund
The CEF will help enhance community facilities, improve access to the countryside and conserve the natural environment along the HS2 Phase One line of route, while the BLEF will support local economies in areas where businesses may experience disruption from the construction of HS2.
The 2 funds will provide £40 million which is set to be allocated at a regional level:
- £15 million for the Central area (Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire)
- £7.5 million for Greater London
- £7.5 million for the West Midlands (Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry)
- £10 million unallocated to allow flexibility to fund cross-border or route wide projects
The allocations were made by Cathy Elliott, the independent chair of the CEF and BLEF funds, following recommendations from the House of Commons HS2 hybrid Bill Select Committee.
Cathy Elliott said:
Allocation of the funds in this way allows communities to have an indication of the level of funding available while maintaining some flexibility to ensure that the overarching objective of the funds are met.
Allocating the funding on a regional level will allow the funding of larger schemes which are likely to deliver a long lasting legacy.
Community groups, charities, non-governmental organisations and business support specialists will be able to bid for grants from the CEF and BLEF funds, which are expected to be rolled out when construction starts in 2017 and will be awarded until the end of HS2’s first year of operation in 2026.
The detailed application guidance for the 2 funds will be published in due course. Following the launch of the funds grant-making rounds are expected to take place every 3 to 6 months.
A separate £30 million road safety fund will be used to make improvements in places along the line of route – for instance to support traffic calming, safer junctions or better pedestrian crossings. Further details on this fund will be announced in due course.
A decision on the HS2 Phase Two route to Manchester and Leeds will be taken in the Autumn.