UK's Johnson backs high speed railway despite opposition

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament, in London, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LONDON – Britain’s Conservative government on Tuesday approved an overdue, over-budget plan for a high-speed rail line linking London with central and northern England, despite opposition from environmentalists and lawmakers in his own party.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has often enthused about large-scale building projects, said his Cabinet had given the “green light” to the project, known as High Speed 2 or HS2.

He acknowledged that the new railway had been plagued by bad management but said that did not detract from the “fundamental value” of building it.

“This country is being held back by our inadequate infrastructure," Johnson told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

“We can try to get by with the existing routes from north to south … or we can have the guts to take a decision, no matter how difficult and how controversial, that will deliver prosperity to every part of the country," he said.

Johnson acknowledged that there was widespread opposition to the plan, but said “every great infrastructure project is opposed at this critical moment."

First approved a decade ago, the project has been the subject of repeated delays and reviews. Trains were originally scheduled to begin running in 2026, but Johnson said Tuesday that services could start by 2030.

Johnson vowed to rein in costs, saying there would be changes to the way the project is managed and a minister would be appointed to supervise it full-time.