UK puts virus-hit construction sector back on track
LONDON, United Kingdom – The United Kingdom government has said the building of a high-speed railway can officially begin, lifting the country's construction sector struck down by a nationwide lockdown over the coronavirus.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, recovering from COVID-19 that saw him spend time at a National Health Service (NHS) intensive care unit, recently gave permission for the HS2 railway despite a ballooning price tag and its impact on the environment.
Linking London with major cities in central and northern England, HS2 is forecast to cost more than £100 billion ($123 billion, 113 billion euros) and is aimed at rebalancing the UK economy away from the capital in southeast England.
"While the government's top priority is rightly to combat the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS, and save lives, we cannot delay work on our long-term plan to level up the country," HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson said in a statement on Wednesday, April 15.
"Following the decision earlier this year to proceed with the project, this next step provides thousands of construction workers and businesses across the country with certainty at a time when they need it, and means that work can truly begin on delivering this transformational project."
The announcement comes as the government faces intense pressure to set out its plans to end the coronavirus lockdown, as the country's death toll approaches 13,000 and the economy takes a battering.
The economy could shrink by 13% this year in the case of a 3-month coronavirus lockdown, a government-funded watchdog predicted Tuesday, April 14.
To combat such a shock, finance minister Rishi Sunak has already unveiled a series of multibillion-pound packages for workers and industries.
While the government is hoping the financial lifelines will help to deliver a quick rebound in growth, it wants also an economy that benefits the entire country thanks to huge infrastructure projects including the new high-speed railway.
"HS2 will be the spine of the country's transport network, boosting capacity and connectivity while also rebalancing opportunity fairly across our towns and cities," Stephenson said.
He said the government had issued a notice to proceed – marking "the formal approval for the project to begin the construction phase." – Rappler.com