Week Ahead: Billions on the line as HS2 decision expected while Brits hope for Oscar glory

A decision on the future of HS2 is set to replace Brexit as the most divisive issue in British politics - for the next few days at least. Chris Burn looks at the Week Ahead.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is set to make an announcement on the future of HS2. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

HIGH-SPEED BATTLE

With the UK leaving the European Union on Friday - albeit while still following the bloc’s rules and regulations during an 11-month transition period as talks begin on future trading arrangements - focus is now likely to turn to domestic political matters, starting with a decision on the future of HS2 which is expected this week.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Parliament last Thursday that MPs “won’t have to wait very long” for an announcement on the controversial high-speed rail scheme following a review of its feasibility by the former HS2 chair Doug Oakervee.

The report is yet to be made public but has been the subject of multiple leaks, including the suggestion that the cost of the project could ultimately exceed over £100bn - more than double previous estimates. The BBC said it has seen the full and final version of the review, which “strongly advises against cancelling” the work but advises that more work is done on the Phase 2 section relating to the Yorkshire part of the line to ensure it is better value for money.

Yorkshire politicians have been split over HS2, with some including prominent Conservatives such as David Davis long arguing it is an unacceptable use of taxpayers’ money. But others such as Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake argue it is vital to improving the North’s economy and taking pressure off existing over-stretched railway lines.

EYES ON HOLLYWOOD

There are high hopes for British success as the Oscars take place on Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Among the British nominees this year are 1917 director Sam Mendes, while Florence Pugh is on the shortlist for Actress in a Supporting Role for her part in Little Women.

Cynthia Erivo is nominated in the Best Actress category for biopic Harriet, while Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin have been nominated for the best original song Oscar in Rocketman.

The ceremony will begin at 11.30pm British time on Sunday night so it will be the early hours of Monday morning before the results are known.

ROYAL ANNIVERSARY

After a tricky start to 2020 for the Royal Family with Harry and Meghan’s departure and continuing controversy surrounding the Duke of York’s past links to Jeffrey Epstein, they will be hoping for a more positive few days this week.

Thursday will mark the 68th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne in 1952, while earlier in the week the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be in South Wales to visit the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Tata Steel as Prince Charles attends a reception for supporters of the British Asian Trust in London. The Queen herself will be visiting the Royal Air Force Marham today.

SCHOOLS UNDER SCRUTINY

On Thursday, the Department for Education will be publishing school league table data following a two-week delay after problems with missing data.

Figures for 2019 had been due to be published last month, but it was postponed for a fortnight after the results of remarked papers in key GCSEs such as English and maths were left out.

The GCSE and A-Level results of thousands of schools across England are published on an annual basis, helping to show where the best-performing schools in the country are based and regional differences in educational attainment.

GOOGLE SEARCHES FOR MORE PROFITS

The quarterly financial results of Google’s parent company Alphabet will be published tonight - analysts are projecting revenues of almost $40bn.