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UK pushes ahead with high speed rail plan

UK pushes ahead with high speed rail plan

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given the green light for a high speed rail project connecting London to northern England, saying he would take a firmer grip on a project that is behind schedule and running billions of pounds over budget.

Known as HS2, the high speed line will slash journey times and add capacity to Britain's crowded network, allowing the UK to catch up with countries like France and Spain which have extensive high-speed rail.

Johnson, who secured a crushing election victory in December by winning towns across northern England, told MPs on Tuesday he would restore discipline to Europe's largest infrastructure project after its costs spiralled.

"The cabinet has given high speed rail the green signal," he told parliament.

"We are going to get this done, and to ensure we do so without further blow outs on either costs or schedule, we are taking decisive action to restore discipline to the programme."

A review was carried out last year into whether HS2 should go ahead at all, after its predicted cost rose to a reported 106 billion pounds ($A204 billion), almost double the bill five years ago.

Johnson said he was backing HS2 as part of a wider revamp of Britain's transport infrastructure, including upgrades to buses and cycle lanes, emphasising a plan to build integrated connections between the regions of northern England.

That fits with Johnson's priority to "level up" the country by investing in transport links outside of London.