A review of the controversial high-speed rail link HS2 has recommended extending the route to run the length of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps launched the review yesterday saying that he expected it to deliver a “go or no-go” decision on the HS2 project by the end of the year.
In a dramatic turnaround Shapps now says the £50bn project will not only go ahead but will be extended to run under the Irish Sea to Warrenpoint and along the length of the Irish border, with services ultimately ending in Muff, County Donegal.
Shapps responded to critics who say the route extension would effectively create a hard border between the two countries by stealth, telling Radio 4 that the decision “had nothing to do with Brexit or the backstop.”
“Granted the extended route will form a sort of hard dividing line between Northern Ireland and the Republic,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
“And yes, that will remove the need for the backstop and ensure Brexit is delivered, but that is not why the government is pressing ahead with this scheme.
“I’ve looked at the facts and figures and what the country needs is for a Banker or Stockbroker living in London to be able to dive on a train at Euston and arrive in Muff as quickly as possible.
“Investing in HS2 will be a boon for the UK economy and great for Muff, and those are two things that are central to Boris Johnson’s vision for Britain.”