Sunday 16 February 2020 1:56 pm

Grant Shapps denies DfT talks with China over HS2 contract

The transport secretary Grant Shapps has today denied reports his department has held talks with China over building the HS2 rail link.

The Financial Times reported China’s state-run railway company had offered to build the line in five years at significantly reduced cost.

Read more: HS2: China tells UK it can build high-speed line in five years and at lower cost

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in parliament that the scheme would go ahead last week, despite opposition from his own party.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Shapps said: “This has not been a discussion with the department.

“It’s been a discussion with HS2 as I understand it.”

“We should be talking to anyone we can learn from” he said in terms of cutting cost and build time.

The minister defended the decision to build the line by emphasising how existing routes are overcrowded.

Many analysts and Tory MPs believe the line is too expensive and local lines are more in need of the money.

This came after allowed controversial Chinese telecoms firm Huawei to build ‘non-core’ parts of the UK’s 5G network.

Read more: Huawei gets government’s go ahead for limited involvement in UK 5G

This decision was bitterly opposed by the US government and several Tory MPs over security concerns.

Shapps emphasised the governments wish to integrate HS2 with other rail improvements.

The government is also supporting the so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail project of building new and upgrading existing rail lines to improve journey times from west to east.

HS2 will run from London to Birmingham then onto Crewe, with the possibility of a further line to Leeds.

This final section will be kept under review.

Reports suggest HS2 could cost up to £106bn and the first section may not open until 2031.

Read more: HS2: Businesses react to Boris Johnson’s green light for controversial rail project

In his announcement, Boris Johnson was critical of how HS2 Ltd had run the project so far, sentiment shared by Shapps.