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23 February 2017, 11:12
Plans for the high speed rail line from London to Birmingham have passed their final big hurdle in Parliament.
The parliamentary Bill to build the line from London to Birmingham has received royal assent, opening the way for construction work to begin.
It has had more than three years of scrutiny including a failed eleventh-hour bid to defeat it in the House of Lords last month.
Phase one of the £55.7 billion scheme is scheduled to open in December 2026, with a second Y-shaped phase launching in two stages.
Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe will open in 2027 and phase 2b, from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds, South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, will begin operation in 2033.
Construction work on phase one is set to begin in the spring. When the section is completed it is expected to nearly triple the number of rush-hour seats on the route from 11,000 to about 30,000.
Most intercity trains will run on the HS2 network, allowing more commuter services on the West Coast line.
West Midlands Combined Authority chairman Bob Sleigh said the granting of royal assent was "the news that the West Midlands has been waiting for''.
He declared that the region was "ready to capitalise fully on the opportunities it offers to transform places, create jobs and attract investment''.
Birmingham City Council Leader John Clancy welcomed the news.
Joe Rukin, campaign manager at Stop HS2, claims the parliamentary Bill receiving royal assent is a "a triumph of spin over evidence-based policy''.
He said: "This is a terrible project which will not deliver on its promises, come in years late, miles over budget, create havoc during construction and has disastrous environmental consequences.
"The fight against phase two of HS2 will continue.''