Planes, trains and bills: Britain’s big projects dilemma

Published January 8, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

LONDON0 (AFP) – A high-speed train that won’t start. An overcrowded airport that can’t expand. A new subway line that never runs.

Britain’s attempts to revive its creaking infrastructure are turning into a headache for Prime Minister Boris Johnson just as his fight with Europe over Brexit winds down.

Mega-spending on delayed, unpopular and controversial projects will be very much the focus when finance minister Sajid Javid unveils his new budget on March 11.

Javid’s promise of an ”infrastructure revolution” chimes with Johnson’s hopes of securing the future votes of Britons from poorer northern regions who switched sides and helped his Conservative party win last month’s election.

Many parts of Briton look on richer London with tinges of anger and envy at its concentration of government spending and wealth.

But Johnson’s vision will be tested by an uneasy business climate and threats of economic stagnation caused by the country’s divorce from the EU.

Here is a look at some of the projects that Johnson will have to tackle after Brexit.

The long-suffering High Speed 2 was meant to create London’s first new rail link to the north of the England in 150 years.

Designed to run to the former industrial powerhouse Birmingham and then Manchester and Leeds, HS2 was supposed to follow on from London’s southern Eurostar connection with Paris.

But it has done little but accrue costs since first being formally proposed more than a decade ago.

Projected to cost £55 billion in 2015 ($72 billion, 65 billion euros at current exchange rates), HS2’s full price is now on course to double before the first train runs in 2029.

Critics doubt it will be completed on schedule, with the opposition Labour Party suggesting in a study that the first train will not reach Leeds until 2040.

Johnson last year said it might be wiser – and a lot cheaper – to simply run the trains between Manchester and Leeds instead.

Others back scrapping the entire project and investing the money instead in upgrades to existing regional links.

As in many other European countries, most British trains run from the capital to specific cities, making travel between the regions difficult, expensive and slow.