Osborne Says Crewe Extension of HS2 Will Open Six Years Early

  • Move a 'massive' step forward for Northern Powerhouse project
  • Ex-CBI boss Cridland takes charge of regional transport body

A proposed high-speed rail line between Birmingham in central England and Crewe in the northwest is to open in 2027, six years ahead of schedule, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will announce Monday.

The plan is part of Osborne’s so-called Northern Powerhouse project designed to re-balance the British economy away from London and the southeast.

Osborne will also say that former director general of the Confederation of British Industry, John Cridland, will be the first chair of Transport for the North, a new body created to improve the connection between cities across northern England.

HS2, featuring trains capable of 225 miles (362 kilometers) an hour running on 335 miles of dedicated track, is to be built in two stages, initially connecting London to Birmingham and then splitting into two branches, with one going to Manchester and the other to Leeds.

HS2 Ltd. Chairman David Higgins had suggested in a report last year that the extension to Crewe should be accelerated to 2027, so that north Wales, Merseyside and the northwest of England would also benefit.

Bringing forward this part of the HS2 route is “a massive step in the right direction for the Northern Powerhouse, where high-speed rail will play a big role in connecting up the entire region with the rest of the country,” Osborne said in a statement released by the Treasury.

The 50 billion-pound ($75 billion) HS2 project is opposed by some lawmakers in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, who question whether it offers value for money and oppose its route across the districts they represent in the House of Commons.

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