The UK government has given green light for the construction of the High Speed Two (HS2) high-speed railway project that will connect London and Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Construction on the project’s first phase from London to the West Midlands is scheduled to commence in April 2020.

High Speed Two (HS2) Limited is the company responsible for developing the new high-speed rail network.

The approval for the project comes alongside the decisions made by the government to invest £5bn to improve bus and cycle links outside London and undertake vital upgrades to local roads.

The funding package to transform buses and cycling is expected to deliver at least 4,000 new Zero Emission buses, higher frequency services, simpler fares, and new priority schemes to make routes more efficient.

The financing will also be used to build over 250 miles of new separated cycle routes, and dozens of ‘Mini-Holland’ schemes for cyclists and pedestrians, among other activities.

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Delivering better, faster and more reliable transport connections is the way to close the opportunity gap across this country.

“Dramatic improvements to local transport and the decision to proceed with HS2 will shift this country’s centre of gravity away from the capital and transform connectivity between our towns and cities.

“I am drawing a clear line under the mismanagement of the past – HS2 must be delivered more efficiently and cost-effectively so that communities feel its benefits more quickly, particularly those in the North.”

The phase 2a of the HS2 project, which will connect Birmingham to Crewe, is currently in its final design and environmental impact stage.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Fully informed by a comprehensive and detailed scrutiny of all the facts, now is the time to drive HS2 forward, alongside a ‘High Speed North’ plan to give the North and Midlands the capacity and connectivity it vitally needs.”

Illustration of the HS2 rail project. (Credit: Crown copyright/