HS2 rail headquarters open in Birmingham
The headquarters of the controversial £42.6bn HS2 high-speed rail project have been officially opened.
Up to 1,000 staff will be employed at HS2 Ltd's premises in Birmingham's Colmore Business District.
The site was opened by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin - ten years before the projected completion date for the line's first phase.
It coincides with a Commons Select Committee hearing final petitions about this part of the scheme.
Phase One is expected to reduce rail times between Birmingham and London by 32 minutes.
Critics say the scheme poses a threat to swathes of English countryside.
Mr McLoughlin said: "We have listened to residents and communities and I am pleased that in many cases we have been able to make the changes they have been calling for."
He added: "HS2 will rebalance our economy, helping make the Midlands an engine for growth.
"The official opening of the headquarters here in Birmingham is proof that HS2 is already boosting jobs and skills, and will continue to do so as we head towards construction."
Phase One, under which trains would run from Curzon Street, Birmingham, is earmarked for completion in 2026.
Connections to Crewe are expected to open in 2027, with lines to Leeds and Manchester planned for completion in 2033.