HS2 could see funding from China, it's emerged, as Li Keqiang made a surprise announcement whilst holding a joint news conference with David Cameron in Beijing. The Chinese premier said that the two countries have reached agreement when it comes to co-operating on nuclear power, too.
“The two sides have agreed to push for a breakthrough and progress in co-operation in the areas of nuclear power and high speed railway”, said Li Keqiang, adding: "The Chinese side is willing to not only participate in but also purchase equities and stocks in UK power projects."
Cameron said that "no country in the world is more open to Chinese investment than the UK".
Speaking to journalists, he said: “I’m not embarrassed that China is investing in British nuclear power, or has shares in Heathrow airport, or Thames Water, or Manchester airport. I think it’s a positive sign of economic strength that we are open and welcome to Chinese investment. That gives, if you like, the British government more firepower to use the capital investment we have for more roads and railways and other things.”
The prime minister paved the way for a message of collaboration last week when he told an audience at the V&A museum: “I’m very interested in what’s happening in terms of high speed rail in China . . . In terms of HS2, I very much welcome Chinese investment into British infrastructure.”
Chinese investment in HS2 could be seen as lacquering the controversial on the controversial - building on Chinese ownership of British infrastructure projects and, in this case, one that appears to be increasingly unpopular at home. The £50bn scheme faced fresh criticism last week as the Telegraph reported that a Telegraph/ICM survey had found that only three per cent of voters thought the scheme will be delivered on time and on budget. And when it comes to governmental support, more than two thirds want to scrap or stop the project whilst other avenues are considered.
But Chinese technologies are developing and being utilised very quickly. Over the last five years the country has built the biggest high speed rail network in the world, reaching almost 10,000km of track. And, despite international safety fears after the 2011 crash that killed 40 people, it is now looking to sell it technologies worldwide.