The Manchester segment of HS2 will be shelved, according to reports, confirming growing speculation that the government intends on axing parts of the plagued project.
According to ITV news’ Robert Peston, Rishi Sunak intends on allocating billions of pounds of the projects’ money to other transport related investments in the north of England.
Sunak is set to confirm he is scrapping the northern leg of HS2 to Manchester at the Conservative Party’s’ annual conference, despite facing huge political backlash in recent weeks.
Downing Street has insisted that media reports are “incorrect” and that “no final decisions have been taken on Phase 2 of HS2.”
The long-delayed HS2 project, which aimed to connect London to Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, has faced intense scrutiny in recent years, after its initial budget soared well ahead of estimates.
A total budget of £32bn, allocated in 2012, has now risen to at least £71bn, with some projections taking the total figure to over £100bn.
The government already scaled back parts of the project, while sections such as the planned Euston terminus – which would ensure the route reaches Central London – have been halted amid spiralling inflation.
A slew of Tory politicians and business leaders have warned that axing sections of HS2 would do irrevocable damage to Britain’s infrastructure and reputation after ministers called for the project to be reviewed.
Rumours begun circling after the Independent reported that a government estimate concluded ditching the northern leg would save up to £34bn.
Senior ministers have so far refused to answer questions surrounding the northern leg. In a visit to the Conservative party conference on Sunday, Sunak refused to comment on “speculation” over whether HS2 would ever reach Manchester.
Labour has also said it would not commit to the Manchester and Birmingham extensions of HS2 amid soaring costs, but politicians from the opposition reacted furiously to today’s news.
Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary said today that the HS2 “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.”
Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference, Manchester’s Mayor Andy Burnham said “this will be remembered as the conference when they pulled the plug on us.”
“What gives them the right to treat people here in Greater Manchester and the north of England as second-class citizens?”
The Department for Transport (DfT) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.