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Boris Johnson Opposes High Speed 2 Rail Plan

Boris JohnsonLondon mayor Boris Johnson has thrown the future of the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project into question by calling it inadequate, perverse and something he can’t support. This dramatic intervention makes him the most influential and highest profile figure to oppose the £34 billion rail link plan so far. This also comes as personal blow to prime minister David Cameron.

Only days before, Cameron insisted he and the government were committed to HS2 while visiting Birmingham. He added that he believes it’s right that the UK gets on board with the revolution of high speed rail.

However, in a letter to anti-HS2 campaigners AGHAST, Johnson gave chairman Jerry Marshall his list of objections to the project. He said that his support of the high speed rail network is conditional on several specific criteria and the need to make the new railway work well for the capital. The plan being consulted now doesn’t reflect these conditions and is insufficient for many reasons.

Johnson has significant environmental concerns – especially moves to position the route on an elevated area at Hillingdon and at ground level through Ealing. It’s perverse that part of the route through Greater London hasn’t been given sufficient environmental mitigation, while it will clearly affect a large number of people. He is seeking substantial alterations in the route’s design to make sure the impacts are addressed properly, preferably with a tunnel. He can’t support the current plan without these changes, he added.

During the letter, the mayor complains that HS2 will result in a doubling of the current amount of passengers arriving at Euston station each morning, as well as that the London Underground won’t be able to deal with it. He wants a commitment from the government that their plan will include new underground rail capacity between Victoria and Euston, and since the current proposal doesn’t, he can’t support it.

If Johnson’s demands aren’t met by ministers and his objections continue after negotiations, massive delays or even scrapping HS2 could happen. The first phase of the project is suppose to link London and Birmingham, and two spurs further north are due to link to Leeds and Manchester.

Johnson has irritated Cameron by fighting about a series of key government policy issues, and HS2 is only the most recent. Some of the other issues include publicly objecting to moves to cap immigrant numbers of people from outside the European Union and calling for a Lisbon treaty referendum. The prime minister’s supporters have accused the mayor of political positioning in order to have the best chance at being the next Tory prime minister. Many government members also disagree with the mayor’s call for strikes to be legal only if 50% of the workforce has participated in a ballot.

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