THE BOSS of HS2 has hailed 2022 as “a year of immense progress” for the controversial high speed rail project.
HS2 CEO Mark Thurston was speaking after 12 months which saw the firm a number of milestone achievements, including the launch of three more TBMs (tunnel boring machines), ten construction sites going completely diesel-free, and a first tunnel breakthrough.
Mr Thurston said: “From the depositing of the Bill to take HS2 to Manchester, the first breakthrough and then complete end-to-end of an HS2 tunnel, and fantastic progress at all four phase one station sites – 2022 was a year of immense progress on Britain’s landmark infrastructure project.
“Right now, HS2 is delivering jobs for almost 30,000 people, with tens of thousands more supported throughout our wider supply chain. Over 2,800 companies have contracts with HS2, ensuring the project is helping grow the UK economy long before a single train starts running.”
The first tunnelling breakthrough on the project saw the 2,000-tonne TBM named ‘Dorothy’ complete its one-mile dig under Long Itchington Wood.
HS2 say the tunnel preserves the ancient woodland above, which is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has complex ecosystems that have taken centuries to establish.
Rail minister Huw Merriman said: “HS2 has made extraordinary progress. This pioneering project is already transforming lives well before the trains hit the tracks, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and boosting local communities by funding hundreds of transformational projects.”
But campaigners remain angry at what they see as the environmental destruction being caused by the multi-billion pound project, which have included the felling of hundreds of ancient trees, most notably the famous 250 plus year-old Cubbington Pear Tree.
HS2 argue tree planting and habitat creation is an essential part of the project and to date ecologists have established 119 new habitat sites and planted around 845,000 trees, covering an area equal to 650 football pitches.
Some 54 kilometres of the 190km track between London and Birmingham, which is scheduled to open sometime between 2029 and 2033, will cut through the heart of Warwickshire, with a new station also being be built at Solihull near Birmingham Airport.
Transport secretary Mark Harper (right) and HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston went 33 metres below ground for an end-to-end tour of the tunnel under Long Itchington Wood.
Celebrating the first tunnelling breakthrough at Long Itchington.
HS2 opened a giant outdoor factory and training academy at Kingsbury in Warwickshire.