Transport secretary Chris Grayling has insisted ministers remain committed to building Phase 2 of HS2 but campaigners have accused him of writing a blank cheque.
Mr Grayling was responding to an open letter from business leaders in the Midlands and North, calling on the UK’s four largest political parties to publicly commit to building the high speed rail link ‘in its entirety’ - including Phase 2, which heads north past Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
What HS2 would look like at London Euston
At an event in the House of Commons, Mr Grayling said: ‘High Speed 2 is vital beyond Birmingham and failure to deliver it would be a dereliction of our duties to improve the life chances of everyone in this country, an abandonment of our ambition for one of the most extraordinary engineering projects since the Victorian age and a huge betrayal of the people in the Midlands and the north.’
He added: ‘Let me reiterate. We are committed to a second stage between the West Midlands and Leeds and between Crewe and Manchester, completing the ‘Y axis’.’
The transport secretary also said it was ‘a complete misnomer to say we can only have either Northern Powerhouse Rail [ an East West link across the North] or HS2’, adding: ‘We need both.’
He said: ‘In fact there are strong reasons why HS2 should actually pave the way for NPR and why the case for NPR is actually bolstered by HS2.’
The Stop HS2 campaign group said the event had been organised ‘so that Government could seemingly lobby itself’ and criticised Mr Grayling for pre-empting the outcome of a business case review of HS2.
Referring to the appearance of Sir Terry Morgan at the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on Tuesday, campaign manager Joe Rukin said:
‘In the week when the former chair of HS2 confirmed that no-one knows what the final cost of HS2 will be, it is a betrayal of every taxpayer in the country to promise a blank cheque for a white elephant that will not deliver on the outlandish, extravagant and unsubstantiable claims that are being made to justify it.’