The northern leg of the HS2 line is about to be scrapped, Sky News understands.
Rumours had been circling for weeks that the high-speed rail line between Birmingham and Manchester was going to be axed by the prime minister and chancellor because of hovering prices.
Even the studies – which have been denied by Number 10 – led to an enormous backlash from all sides of the political spectrum, together with from former Conservative prime ministers Boris Johnson and Theresa May.
A Downing Street spokesperson mentioned: “These reports are incorrect. No final decisions have been taken on Phase 2 of HS2.”
The improvement threatens to draw controversy and overshadow Rishi Sunak’s first Tory convention as chief and prime minister because the social gathering trustworthy gathers in Manchester for the annual occasion.
The first indications that the leg to Manchester may very well be scrapped got here after The Independent reported that ministers had been contemplating shelving the northern section due to considerations about spiralling prices and extreme delays.
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The newspaper mentioned a price estimate revealed that the federal government has already spent £2.3bn on stage two of the railway from Birmingham to Manchester, however that ditching the northern section might save as much as £34bn.
Sky News understands the Department of Transport (DfT) has labored up a bundle of different tasks – rail, bus and highway schemes – which may very well be funded from cash saved by scrapping the Manchester to Birmingham leg of the undertaking.
But Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, accused the federal government of treating individuals within the north of England as “second-class citizens” almost about HS2.
He informed Sky News’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “An east-west line is really important for north of England, as well as north-south. Why is it always that people here are forced to choose? That we can’t have everything, ‘you can have this or you can have that but you can’t have everything’?
“London by no means has to decide on between a north-south line and an east-west line and good public transport inside the metropolis.
“Why is it that people in the north are always forced to choose, why are we always treated as second-class citizens when it comes to transport?”
Number 10 is attempting to close down an announcement it’s not able to make public
Ahead of right now, Downing Street drew up a plan for saying a choice on scrapping the northern leg of HS2 in Manchester.
It would contain a cupboard assembly right here at convention, presumably a go to by the PM and the announcement itself.
Earlier right now, I used to be informed a choice had been made. This would have been on the coronary heart of presidency’s inside sanctum, with this communicated solely to a small quantity.
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It has additionally not but gone to cupboard – we might know if this had occurred.
Therefore Number 10 can legitimately say that no last determination has been made – as some choices have, we’re informed.
This revelation – because the chancellor was due on stage – couldn’t be extra disruptive for convention, that means HS2 is eclipsing yet one more day of the protection.
Number 10 at the moment are attempting to close down an announcement they’re evidently not able to make in public.
That is why they’ve issued the next: “These reports are incorrect. No final decisions have been taken on Phase 2 of HS2.”
We await the subsequent twist within the story.
He was joined in his criticism by Mr Johnson, who mentioned delaying or scrapping the northern leg of HS2 could be “betraying the north of the country and the whole agenda of levelling up”.
The ex-prime minister’s intervention got here on on the eve of the social gathering convention.
In a sequence of interviews on Thursday, Rishi Sunak repeatedly refused to be drawn on the way forward for HS2, saying: “I’m not speculating on future things.”
But writing in his weekly Daily Mail column, Mr Johnson appealed to his former chancellor to point out Britain nonetheless has “the requisite guts and ambition” to put money into infrastructure and labelled the goal of saving cash “deluded”.
Mr Johnson – who made levelling up a centrepiece of his 2019 manifesto and authorities – mentioned when he heard studies the northern leg was set to be delayed or cancelled, he set free a “long, low despairing groan”.
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He wrote: “Cancel HS2? Cut off the northern legs? We must be out of our minds.”
Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, has additionally warned in opposition to any downscaling of HS2.
Asked concerning the studies by Sky News on the convention in Manchester, he mentioned: “You must ask the PM – I’m confident he’ll do the right thing.”
Delivery of the high-speed railway has been a core pledge of the Conservative authorities, however it has been suffering from delays and ever-increasing prices.
The preliminary opening date of 2026 has fallen again to 2033, whereas price estimates have spiralled from about £33bn in 2010 to £71bn in 2019 – excluding the ultimate jap leg from the West Midlands to the East Midlands.
It is not only the northern part of the undertaking that has encountered bother.There are additionally doubts about the way forward for Euston station in London and whether or not companies will terminate there or at Old Oak Common in west London.