Posted 3rd October 2023 | 1 Comment

Storm of HS2 protests grows, as PM stays on fence

The Prime Minister is refusing to say whether HS2 will be built north of Birmingham to Crewe and Manchester, although newspapers overnight are mostly assuming that the axe is about to fall.

Rishi Sunak has continued to resist attempts by journalists to find out what will happen. He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I know you want to keep asking, I know there’s lots of speculation, but what I’m going to say is I won’t be forced into a premature decision because it’s good for someone’s TV programme.’

It has also been reported that an emergency cabinet meeting will be held during the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester today, but this has also yet to be confirmed.

Many senior Conservatives, including three former Prime Ministers, are opposing the cutback.

Various parts of the railway industry are also continuing to criticise the possibility that the ‘network’ could be reduced to a section between west London and Birmingham.

The Rail Forum said this morning that it would be ‘a devastating blow for the supply chain and in our opinion will cause significant reputational damage to the UK.’

It continued: ‘HS2 is vital for creating additional capacity for the next 50-plus years (it's not about capacity requirements today), levelling up and providing better connectivity as an integral part of other schemes e.g. Northern Powerhouse Rail, [and] ensuring we have a 21st century long distance, low carbon public transport network.’

Last night Railway Industry Association chief executive Darren Caplan, who is at the conference, said: ‘The Railway Industry Association and our rail business members are getting increasingly concerned about reports that HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester will be scrapped.

‘These companies already have around 30,000 people working on the scheme with a huge amount of construction ongoing and are set to employ even more, together with billions of pounds of investment, on HS2 Phase 2. The uncertainty around all this is potentially devastating to their plans, all of which were developed in good faith.’

With orders for an HS2 fleet now uncertain, Derby City Council has expressed concern about the security of jobs at the Alstom works in the city.

It said: ‘The Council has pledged to play its part in supporting the company, and urges Government to work with Alstom, as it attempts to mitigate a major fall off in production as a result in delays in new train orders.’

Labour shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh MP said: ‘This fiasco shows the Conservatives are too divided and too distracted to take this country forward.

’After weeks of chaos and indecision on the biggest infrastructure project in the country, Rishi Sunak’s relaunch is now coming off the rails.

‘This shambolic conference is showcasing precisely why working people cannot afford five more years of the Conservatives.’

Reader Comments:

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  • John Porter , Leeds

    HS2 has a key role as significant as the Motorway Network.
    Unfortunately HS2 started with too big a first phase. With hindsight it ought to have started with Marsden to Warrington (the key bit of Northern Powerhouse Core Network and equivalent to the toe in the water M6 Preston, M40 High Wycombe & M4 Slough bypasses).
    Better evaluation of the original S shaped network ought to have established its fall role in case the Eastern Leg, which originally didn’t serve Central Sheffield, Derby & Nottingham, proved too contentious.