Legislation paving the way for the high speed rail link between London and the Midlands, dubbed HS2, has been approved by an overwhelming majority of 399 MPs in its final Commons stage and will now go to the House of Lords.
However, 42 MPs who represent constituencies through which the route will pass voted against the Bill, with many concerned about the cost and the threat to the environment. Campaigners against HS2 were also critical of the timing of the vote, with one arguing that it had been rushed through in less than an hour.
As another pointed out, there was little time for amendments to be discussed and MPs to speak, while another complained that, with just 37 minutes given to debate a £56bn project, it worked out at over £1.5bn per minute.
However, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the vote had brought HS2 one step closer to reality, with construction expected to begin next year, if the Bill is passed by the Lords. The project is due to be completed in 10 years, with a further extension to Manchester and Leeds due to be finished by 2032. However, separate laws would be needed to authorise this second phase
Hailing the result of the vote, Mr McLoughlin said that British contractors are now bidding to build the line, British apprentices are waiting to work on it and British cities are waiting to benefit from it.
He pledged that the Government would work closely with communities affected by the HS2 route, while keeping a firm grip on costs, and will drive maximum value for money through the project. Initially the rail link would be run by the state to prove it worked before being passed to the private sector.