The world’s new economic superpower stands ready to pour billions of pounds into the new high-speed rail line between London and the north of England, the Chinese premier has said.
Li Keqiang announced yesterday that China could part-fund or even help to build the contentious £42.6bn HS2 project, along with a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK.
Speaking after talks with David Cameron on the first day of the Prime Minister’s visit to China, Mr Li said the two sides had agreed to “push for breakthroughs” on nuclear power and high-speed rail.
“The Chinese side is willing to not only participate but purchase equities and stocks,” he said.
Speaking ahead of his visit last week, Mr Cameron made clear he was hopeful of securing investment in HS2 from Beijing.
“I’m very interested in what’s happening in terms of high speed rail in China,” he said. “It seems to be an absolute high-speed revolution... In terms of HS2, I very much welcome Chinese investment into British infrastructure.”
Almost half the world’s high-speed rail track has been built in China, although the country’s record has been blemished by a high-speed crash in 2011 which killed 40 people and a corruption scandal which saw the railways minister fired from his post.
Nonetheless, the UK’s own Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin visited China last month to discuss the possibility of Chinese investment in HS2.
Tory peer Lord Heseltine said recently he believes £10bn could be shaved off the cost of the project if private investment is harnessed.
Mr Li, whose country has already agreed to help build the UK’s first new nuclear power station in a generation at Hinckley Point in Somerset, said: “On infrastructure, the two sides have agreed to push for breakthroughs and progress in co-operation on our enterprises in nuclear power and high-speed railway.”