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Work set to start on high speed line as Boris Johnson says UK infrastructure project will create 22,000 jobs

Work is set to start on building HS2 on Friday, with Boris Johnson saying Europe’s biggest infrastructure project will create 22,000 jobs as the UK recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Engineers will switch from enabling works to constructing the first phase of the line, which a review earlier this year said could cost £106bn, from London to the West Midlands.

Boris Johnson said: “HS2 is at the heart of our plans to build back better – and with construction now formally underway, it’s set to create around 22,000 jobs.

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“As the spine of our country’s transport network, the project will be vital in boosting connectivity between our towns and cities.”

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He said HS2 will “fire up economic growth” and “help rebalance opportunity for years to come”.

HS2 Ltd said 7,000 jobs will be needed in the West Midlands over the next two years. It said there will be 4,000 roles based at Milton Keynes. Another 10,000 jobs will be recruited by construction chiefs in Greater London. HS2 Ltd is already directly recruiting 500 roles, mainly based in Birmingham.

‘Today marks a major milestone’

HS2 Ltd said 7,000 jobs will be needed in the West Midlands over the next two years (Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire)

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said: “Today marks a major milestone in this government’s ambitions to build back better from Covid-19.

“Shovels in the ground to deliver this new railway means thousands of jobs building the future of our country’s infrastructure.”

But Joe Rukin, campaign manager for Stop HS2, said the case for building HS2 has “gone from questionable to completely non-existent”. The group says HS2 will permanently displace 19,590 jobs.

He said: “Trying to spin HS2 as a job creation scheme is beyond desperate, as even if you take the government’s low estimate of cost for phase one of HS2, creating 22,000 jobs works out at almost two million pounds just to create a single job, at a time when well-run businesses are going under every day.”