Despite advance work having already started on HS2, there remains much speculation about whether the second stage, north of Birmingham, will ever actually get built. The project has a host of critics who consider it to be a white elephant.
But Chris Grayling said that failure to deliver HS2 would be “a dereliction of duty”.
Speaking at an HS2 event yesterday, he said: “You may have seen media stories suggesting that the second stage of the project might not happen. Those stories are completely inaccurate.
“Let me be very clear. High Speed 2 is vital beyond Birmingham and failure to deliver it would be a dereliction of our duties to improve the life chances of everyone in this country, an abandonment of our ambition for one of the most extraordinary engineering projects since the Victorian age and a huge betrayal of the people in the Midlands and the north.
“Some of you may have been at the event, where I was reported to have made these remarks. In fact I said we must keep on making the strategic case for HS2 and work hard to win over the public about its potential benefits.
“Let me reiterate. We are committed to a second stage between the West Midlands and Leeds and between Crewe and Manchester, completing the ‘Y axis’ and it is very heartening to see that the positive impacts of HS2 — both the first and second stage — are already being felt all over the UK.
“So far it has already created 7,000 jobs and 100 apprenticeships. While over 2,000 contracts for the railway are being delivered by businesses large and small everywhere from Colchester to Coventry.
“So HS2 is a project that will transform our country, regenerate our regions and rebalance our economy. But I want to be clear that it will not come at the expense of other transport projects for the north. And conversely nor will other railway projects come at the expense of HS2."
He added: “It’s a complete misnomer to say we can only have either Northern Powerhouse Rail or HS2. We need both. In fact there are strong reasons why HS2 should actually pave the way for NPR and why the case for NPR is actually bolstered by HS2.
“That’s why we are integrating HS2 into the emerging proposals from Transport for the North for Northern Powerhouse Rail, as well as with our Midlands transport plans.”