U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg reaffirmed the coalition government’s commitment to building a high-speed rail line between London and the north of England.
Clegg said the proposed line, which is known as HS2 and has been criticised by former ministers and some members of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, is a key part of the government’s strategy for balanced economic growth.
“HS2 is central to our 21st-century ambition to build a stronger economy in the U.K.,” Clegg said in a speech today in Glasgow, Scotland, according to extracts released by his office. “We know that our competitors have been investing in better roads and railways for decades, but the last time we built a new main rail line north of London was more than 100 years ago.”
The new line would help to tackle the north-south economic divide in the U.K. by increasing capacity and cutting journey times, Clegg said. The deputy prime minister rounded on critics of the plan, saying it can be delivered in time and on budget. The business case has been tested “rigorously,” he said.
“The alternatives they suggest, such as upgrading existing lines, aren’t viable answers,” Clegg said. “For example, the extra capacity created through the 9 billion-pound upgrade of the West Coast main line has already been filled.” Nine billion pounds is $14 billion.
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