U.K. Approves High-Speed Rail Project

LONDON--The U.K. government has given the green light to a controversial new £32.7 billion ($50.6 billion) high-speed rail network which will link London and the cities of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, the Secretary for Transport Justine Greening said Tuesday.

A train passes beneath a HS2 protest sign in Wendover in southwest England Jan. 9.

LONDON--The U.K. government has given the green light to a controversial new £32.7 billion ($50.6 billion) high-speed rail network which will link London and the cities of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, the Secretary for Transport Justine Greening said Tuesday.

"It is the largest transport infrastructure investment in the U.K. for a generation," she said in a statement. "At present values, it will generate benefits of up to £47 billion and fare revenues of up to £34 billion over a 60-year period."

The line from London to the West Midlands and the connection to the older HS1 high-speed line are expected to open in 2026, followed in 2032-33 by the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds and a connection to London's Heathrow airport, the government said.

The new line has raised objections that its projected environmental and economic costs do not justify the investment, including from lawmakers within Prime Minister David Cameron's center-right Conservative party who represent areas along the proposed route.

An artist's impression of part of the HS2 high speed rail route