HS2 chief 'battling to keep budget on track'

Reports that the chairman of the body responsible for delivering the High Speed Two rail project is expected to rule out big changes to the scheme as he 'battles to keep the project within a £50 billion budget' feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Financial Times (subscription required) reports that Sir David Higgins "is unlikely to support Stoke-on-Trent’s bid for the line to stop in the Potteries rather than Crewe. The largest city between Birmingham and Manchester, Stoke claims the route would be £5 billion cheaper, involve less new track and fewer tunnels and generate £200 million in extra growth". Liverpool, which is off the route, is also likely to miss out, the newspaper adds. The newspaper quotes a "person briefed on the plans" saying: "He is struggling to keep it within the spending envelope he has".

The Financial Times (subscription required) also comments on yesterday’s City Growth Commission report on greater devolution for UK cities. Its leader column says: "The time is ripe for more ambitious shift of power away from London to allow cities to determine their own destinies. Politicians need to stop venerating and act".

A leader in the Telegraph agrees. It says: "Such moves deserve to win broad support. Rather than the ersatz devolution promoted by the last government, based around regional assemblies, this new urban localism proceeds from a clear commercial and economic rationale. It would spur local decision-making, without cutting across the wider devolution agenda, in terms of the need for English votes for English laws. Our cities were once the envy of the world. With the right incentives, they can be again".

The Guardian reports that Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, "has accused his coalition government partners of ‘reckless’ behaviour for their manifesto commitment to end subsidies for onshore wind".

The Independent reports that the DIY chain Homebase has announced plans to close one in four of its stores over the next three years. The newspaper quotes John Walden, the chief executive of the firm saying: "Retail in the UK is over-stretched everywhere, which is why you see retailers reducing space. There’s a movement across retail to reduce square footage and we believe we can fix it here".

The Independent also reports that discrimination against gypsies and travellers is the last bastion of "acceptable" racism in Britain, according to research published today. The newspaper says that nine out of 10 gypsy, traveller or Roma children in the UK "have suffered racial abuse, a study from the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and Anglia Ruskin University shows". The newspaper adds: "A lack of appropriate caravan sites is having a significant detrimental impact on the community, the report says. Gypsies and travellers have been encouraged to purchase their own land but 90 per cent of planning applications made from these groups fail".


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