The UK Government is facing mounting criticism over the news the HS2 line connecting Birmingham and Manchester may not go ahead – as the former transport secretary said it was “perfectly proper and responsible” to review the future of the project given current costs.
Grant Shapps told the BBC ministers would be “crazy” not to reconsider the “sequencing” of HS2 when factoring in the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and inflation levels on its current budget.
It comes as former chairman of HS2, Allan Cook, publicly excoriated the government in a letter to The Times today: “Sir, As a former chairman of HS2, I believe that any decision to scale down the project would be a betrayal of the north and our growth ambition as a country.”
He said stopping HS2 at Birmingham would “send shockwaves through our construction and engineering sectors”, adding “thousands” of jobs would vanish from the Midlands and the North.
Civil Engineering Contractors Association chief executive, Alasdair Reisner, has said scrapping the northern phase of HS2 would make the UK an “international laughingstock”.
Former chancellor, George Osborne, said it would be a “gross act of vandalism”.
Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, has also criticised the government.
The original vision for HS2 was to create a quick and efficient rail connection from London to Manchester and Leeds via Birmingham – however much of the line going to Leeds has since been cut.
In March, the government announced the Birmingham to Crewe section of the high-speed rail line would be delayed by two years to address soaring inflation and costs.
Some estimates put the cost of HS2 between £70 billion and £100 billion.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the cost of HS2 is getting ‘out of control’.
A final decision on HS2 could come this week, it is understood.
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