By Daniel Hunter

Britain must seize the unparalleled opportunity presented by high speed 2 (HS2) to generate jobs, rebalance the economy and secure the country’s future prosperity, the Prime Minister said.

The proposed route and the locations of new stations in the West Midlands, north west, East Midlands and Yorkshire were unveiled this morning as David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin underlined the government’s absolute commitment to investing in the infrastructure that Britain needs to compete and succeed in the global economy.

The publication today of the 211-mile northern phase two route of HS2, part of the government’s mid-term review, follows the confirmation a year ago of HS2’s 140-mile southern phase one route between London and Birmingham, which starts construction in four years and opens to passengers in 13 years. The routes announced today, running from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, will open six years after that.

Mr McLoughlin has also confirmed that the consultation on the proposed routes published today will be brought forward to start in 2013 rather than in 2014. He has also ordered the Department for Transport to look into whether the project can be fast-tracked so that the second phase of HS2 is completed ahead of the scheduled completion date of 2032.

HS2 means jobs and opportunities for British workers and companies. The construction of the railway line, its maintenance and new station hubs driving surrounding commerce and regeneration will create a total of 100,000 jobs. The Core Cities Group of England’s eight largest cities and other organisations believe the potential for jobs across the wider Midlands and the north is well above that figure.

New stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands will bring communities and businesses in and around those areas closer together with each other, Birmingham, London and beyond. Crewe will be served by a dedicated link alongside the high speed line. Local transport connections around all high speed stations, particularly at non-city centre locations, will be enhanced.

HS2 will be integrated with the existing national railway network, meaning cities and towns beyond the high speed track up to Scotland — including Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Preston, Warrington, Lancaster, Carlisle, Durham and Darlington - will also benefit from new connections and substantial time savings due to new trains able to use both high speed and conventional railway lines.

HS2 will free up capacity on existing rail lines for more commuter, rural and freight services, and mean fewer cars and lorries on our roads, cutting congestion and carbon.

HS2 brings the additional benefits of dramatic journey time savings. Manchester city centre will be 41 minutes from Birmingham city centre and 1 hour 8 minutes from London Euston, almost halving their durations today. Leeds will be 57 minutes away from Birmingham city centre, compared to 1 hour 58 today, and 1 hour 22 minutes away from London Euston, down from 2 hours 12 minutes today. HS2 stations at Leeds, Sheffield, East Midlands and Birmingham will each be separated from the next by journey times of under 20 minutes.

Ticket prices on HS2 will be set in order that the new rail services can be accessed by all.

HS2 has a robust business case that delivers £2 of benefit for every £1 spent, even before wider economic benefits are calculated.

HS2 will deliver a fair deal for communities affected by the construction of the route by continuing to offer a generous compensation package for people living near the line and investing millions in tunnels and other measures to mitigate noise and other impacts.

HS2 will ensure that our railway network has the capacity to cope with ever increasing numbers of passengers. The West Coast Main Line, where some regular services between London and Birmingham run at up to 62% over capacity, is on course to be completely full by the mid-2020s.

HS2 will connect to Heathrow Airport from the first day that phase one opens via a fast 11-minute Crossrail link at the new Old Oak Common station. Subject to the findings of the Airports Commission report on maintaining the UK’s international hub connectivity, HS2 could also be extended to serve Heathrow directly.

"Linking communities and businesses across the country and shrinking the distances between our greatest cities, high speed rail is an engine for growth that will help to drive regional regeneration and invigorate our regional economies. It is vital that we get on board the high-speed revolution," Prime Minister David Cameron said.

"We are in a global race and this government’s decision to make high speed rail a reality is another example of the action we taking to equip Britain to compete and thrive in that race. High speed rail is a catalyst that will help to secure economic prosperity across Britain, rebalance our economy and support tens of thousands of jobs."

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "The Olympics showed us that Britain has the confidence to seize opportunities today in order to secure our success tomorrow and HS2 is no different. It is about an investment in infrastructure that will deliver a priceless dividend: 351 miles of new railways helping people to jobs and goods to market."

"While doing nothing would be the easy choice it would also be the irresponsible choice. This is an unparalleled opportunity to secure a step-change in Britain’s competitiveness and this government will do everything possible to ensure that the towns and cities in the Midlands and the north get the connections they need and deserve to thrive.

"HS2 will be woven into the transport fabric of the nation, accessible to all, and I believe these proposed routes offer a great starting point for the process of engagement to follow. As with previous consultations, we will work closely with communities and interested parties to find the right balance between delivering the essential infrastructure that we need and respecting the rights and justifiable concerns of those who will be most affected by HS2’s construction."

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