HS2 faces new axe threat


Contractors have reacted furiously to reports that ministers are considering cancelling the second phase of HS2, which is due to take the high speed rail line to Manchester.

The Independent said it had seen a cost estimate that while the Government has already spent or committed £2.3bn of unrecoverable costs on Phase 2, shelving it would save up to £34bn.

It said the issue was discussed at a meeting between prime minister Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday and that it understands that talks are ongoing.

The online paper subsequently reported that on Thursday the prime minister’s official spokesman would not promise that the line would go to Manchester.

Ministers have already decided that the Eastern Leg of the Phase 2b will not extend to Leeds.

Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said: ‘Cancellation of such a nationally-significant project will level down rather than level up, massively undermining the ability of the UK economy as a whole to grow, and threaten delivery of Net Zero by 2050.

‘In simple terms, a decision to axe the northern sections of HS2 would mean that we are unlikely to see high speed rail in the North anytime in the first half of this century.

‘No British Government has made such a short-sighted and self-harming decision since Harold Wilson’s administration stopped work on the Channel Tunnel in the mid-1970s.

‘Cancelling the second leg of HS2 would not only make the UK an international laughing stock: it will actively undermine the life-chances of generations of Britons, harm our ability to fight climate change, and destroy trust in politics to deliver on a better future for us all.’

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