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Britain Must Not Postpone High-Speed Rail Investment, BCC Says

The U.K. must not delay building a new high-speed rail network, the British Chambers of Commerce said, responding to a report that the government will postpone plans for a link between London and Birmingham.

The Sunday Telegraph said today that a bill paving the way for the so-called HS2 line costing 32 billion pounds ($51.7 billion) will be dropped from the Queen’s speech next week, delaying the start of the project by at least a year to 2027.

“Given the importance of infrastructure to our future competitiveness, business fears the signal being sent at reports that the bill enabling the construction of HS2 might be dropped from the Queen’s Speech,” Adam Marshall, director of policy at the BCC, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Plans for the new rail link have met opposition from those who argue it will blight some of England’s most picturesque countryside. The line also passes through the constituencies of five Conservative Party ministers, one of whom, Cheryl Gillan, may resign, The Sunday Telegraph said.

A “hybrid” bill is required to develop large national transportation projects. Delaying the legislation will defer an expected parliamentary struggle.

The country’s railways are almost at capacity, roads need investment and there’s no clear aviation strategy, the statement said. “These facts must be addressed no matter how uncomfortable they may make ministers,” the BCC said.

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