Rishi Sunak hints he could scrap the Manchester leg of HS2 and suggests the money could be spent on fixing potholes
- The Prime Minister hinted he was ready to scrap the Manchester leg of HS2
Rishi Sunak today hinted he was ready to scrap the Manchester leg of HS2 – and suggested the money could be put to better use on other forms of transport.
During a bruising round of interviews with local BBC radio stations, the Prime Minister ducked more than a dozen questions about whether the troubled rail line would ever reach Manchester.
He confirmed the project was under review to ensure ‘we get value for money’.
And he suggested the estimated £35 billion saved could be better spent funding other transport projects, such as new rail lines connecting northern cities, improved rural buses, or even fixing potholes.
Whitehall sources confirmed that the Prime Minister was all but convinced that the soaring cost of the flagship rail scheme, which began life under the last Labour government, can no longer be justified.
Rishi Sunak (pictured on September 20) today hinted he was ready to scrap the Manchester leg of HS2
The soaring cost of the flagship rail scheme began life under the last Labour government
But the plan has triggered a huge political backlash, and a formal decision has been put on hold until after the Conservatives hold their annual conference in Manchester this weekend.
Mr Sunak said there were already ‘spades in the ground’ on the first phase of HS2, which will run from Birmingham to Old Oak Common in west London.
But he repeatedly refused to confirm the line would be extended to Manchester, or whether it would run into Euston in central London as planned.
The PM denied that curtailing the high-speed line at Birmingham would be a ‘betrayal’ of the North, pointing to his own credentials as MP for Richmond, in North Yorkshire.
He told BBC Radio York: ‘When I speak to people when I’m at home or anywhere else around, what everyone tells me is that you’ve got to make it easier to get around all our northern towns and cities, whether it’s Hull, York, Leeds, Sheffield, all the way over to Liverpool. Connecting all those cities up is really important and we’re doing that.
‘But we’re also investing in the local transport that people use every day, making sure that our potholes are filled, making sure that our bus services are running.’
Asked to say ‘yes or no – are you scrapping the HS2 line between Birmingham and Manchester?’, he said: ‘I’m not speculating about future things.’
Martin McTague, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said scrapping the Manchester leg would be a ‘huge letdown’.
He suggested the estimated £35 billion saved could be better spent funding other transport projects, such as new rail lines connecting northern cities, improved rural buses, or even fixing potholes (pictured on Petersfield Road in Bournemouth)