Posted 2nd October 2023 | 5 Comments

Prime Minister refuses to comment on HS2 ‘speculation’

The Prime Minister has refused to say whether the HS2 branch between Birmingham, Crewe and Manchester is to be built, after numerous reports suggested that he is poised to scrap Phases 2A and 2B. Mr Sunak remained tight lipped about the fate of the scheme as the Conservative Party conference got under way in Manchester yesterday (Sunday).

Rishi Sunak is under increasing pressure in the north of England, after his former levelling-up minister Dehenna Davison was joined by former Conservative chairman Jake Berry in calling for him to ‘crack on’ with the scheme. Mr Berry added that the Manchester leg ‘really matters’ to people in the region.

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch has also admitted that international investors are concerned, but Mr Sunak said the UK was not a ‘laughing stock’, as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has alleged.

Mr Khan attended a meeting of Transport for the North last week, when the chair of TfN, former transport secretary Lord McLoughlin, said: ‘Northern leaders spoke with one voice today. We need HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail built in full if we are to realise the full potential of the North and to level up our national economy. Let us not delay.’

The chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt also told the BBC last week that cancellation would be a ‘tragedy’. He continued: ‘In Birmingham we have already seen the consequences with major investment, 20,000 new jobs predicted and 2,000 new homes predicted. But what we have to do is get a grip on the costs.

‘You look at whether you have done some gold-plating. Railway engineers always want to do the absolute ideal and you have to challenge that and ask whether that is absolutely essential – can we silver-plate this rather than gold-plate it? You might slow it down a bit, that gives you some savings on the alignment.’

Mr Sunak is said to be facing more opposition from other senior Conservatives, including three former Prime Ministers – Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron – as well as former chancellor George Osborne and West Midlands mayor Andy Street.

Meanwhile, levelling up secretary Michael Gove is reported to have promised conference delegates in Manchester that Mr Sunak would say more about HS2 in ‘due course’.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Janice Longbottom, London

    Election in May, HS2 Cancellation uproar in the north hands election to Labour, Labour government reinstates the whole thing.

    Nothing to see here other than flip flopping leading to waste

  • Steve, Kuwait City

    Please remember, all of us, how willingly MP's rushed up and down the country selling this wasteful scheme to their constituents when it was in the initial stages; and conclude surely that the governance of transport and this country as a whole, is unfit for purpose through greed, cronyism and incompetence.

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley

    Maybe a little premature in my previous post as it seems the No.10 spin machine is desperately trying to brief otherwise on HS2. So the dither continues. No wonder HS2 is viewed as a basket case.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    I presume the Manchester and Euston legs are dead, and the PM and Chancellor are trying to work out the 'sweeteners'. I presume some of the saved money will go to Northern Rail projects, and minor adjustments will be made to HS2 going north from Brum. I suggest they may find a way of linking it in to the WCML just south of Stafford. That would mean some speed up for trains from Manchester (maybe existing Pendolinos?) using the HS link from Brum to Old Oak for their final stage. Will they scrap the new High Speed trains as well ?

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    As the latest developments from the Conservative Party conference are being reported it is increasingly clear that the Department for Transport is clearly misnamed as it should be the Department for Roads. It's also clear that the Prime Minister is coming off the fence re HS2 and that even though his party's conference is in Manchester that the Manchester leg is for the chop. So much for long term investment if decisions that have commanded strong cross party support cannot be delivered. Levelling Up & Build Back Better will be remembered for what they've always been vacuous political slogans.