HS2: Government hails 'incredible momentum' as Old Oak Common work continues

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Proponents of HS2 are hoping to build on “incredible momentum” of the project now construction on Old Oak Common has been begun. 

The new Willesden station will be a major part of the contested line which will connect London to Birmingham and beyond. 

This week, the government has announced High Speed 2 (HS2) stock will be zero-carbon electricity to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

There is also a new target for carbon emissions from the steel and concrete used to build the railway to be halved – compared with 2021 levels – by 2030.

Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2 Ltd, said: “It has been a year of major moments for HS2.

“From the start of tunnelling, to hitting 20,000 jobs, to awarding the contract to build our trains, 2021 really showed the incredible momentum on Britain’s biggest infrastructure project.

“HS2 is moving forward, creating jobs, enhancing skills, benefiting UK businesses and building a low-carbon, high-capacity railway that will change the way we travel in Britain.”

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps gave the go ahead for permanent construction work to begin at the site of Old Oak Common station in June.

This will be the UK’s largest railway station built in a single stage and be the second station on the line after the Euston terminus. It will provide direct interchange between high speed rail and conventional rail services.

Machines are set to begin digging further tunnels this year.

But despite the progress, the project has not been without a hitch.

Environmental activists caused disruption at several sites on Phase 1 of the line between London and Birmingham.

This included a group digging a network of tunnels in London’s Euston Square Gardens, which required an expensive operation in January and February to remove them.

The Government announced in November that HS2’s eastern leg between Leeds and the East Midlands had been scrapped.

Kathryn Brown, director of climate action for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “It’s good to hear positive ambitions for HS2, because so far the construction has caused only damage and destruction of nature.

“We can’t build our way out of the climate crisis, and the Government has made it clear that restoring nature and natural processes is needed at an unprecedented scale.”

Additional reporting by PA.