THE British government yesterday approved construction of a controversial high-speed rail link between the country's two biggest cities -- London and Birmingham -- despite opposition from many residents along the proposed route.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the 225km line, known as High Speed 2, would be "the backbone of a new transport system for the 21st century".
She said Britain could no longer "rely on the patch and mend approach" to its ageing infrastructure, and insisted the £32bn (€38bn) project should go ahead despite tough economic times -- the government is in the midst of cutting £80bn (€97bn) from public spending.
"No matter how hard times are we cannot stop investing for the future," Ms Greening said.
The new line will carry 360kmh trains and shorten journey times between London and Birmingham from almost 90 minutes to 49 minutes.
Ms Greening said the project would transfer about 4.5 million journeys per year from air and road to trains.
Many are opposed to the plan, saying the new rail line will ruin tracts of England's picturesque countryside, is too expensive and will not benefit most Britons.
Independent MP Joe Rukin, who coordinated a campaign against the route, said it was "a white elephant of monumental proportions".
"There is no business case, no environmental case and there is no money to pay for it," he said.