The UK government is to review the HS2 high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham to consider the inclusion of a new US$800M, 2.4km long tunnel through the controversial and scenic Chiltern Hills section of the route, reports the BBC News. The move will delay the final decision on whether the US$51bn rail link will be built from before Parliament breaks for Christmas on 20th December until the middle of January 2012.
The government has said that the additional funding could be provided by cut backs elsewhere on the 160km route, whilst the delayed announcement would allow a feasibility study and EIA to be carried out on the new tunnel section. Reports say the plans will see the new 2.5km tunnel join two already included tunnels along the route keeping the line through the Chilterns completely underground, a move welcomed by opponents of the scheme and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The possible new tunnel section is being studied after the House of Commons Transport Committee released a report last month suggesting a re-assessment of HS2’s benefits and impact.
The rail link, if given the go-ahead could be built between 2016 and 2026.