Thursday, 18 Jul 2024

Now Theresa May says HS2 must not be scaled back

Now Theresa May says HS2 must not be scaled back one day after fellow former Conservative PM Boris Johnson declared cutting the rail project would be ‘a betrayal of the North’

  • The former PM has called for HS2 not be to scaled back by the Tory government 
  • It comes after Boris Johnson declared cutting the project would betray the north 

Theresa May has called for HS2 not to be scaled back just days after fellow former Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared cutting the rail project would be ‘a betrayal of the North’. 

The former Conservative leader, who was in Downing Street between 2016 and 2019, said she was in favour of the train line being delivered due because of the extra capacity needed on the railway line to the north west of England. 

Mrs May said she had urged ministers not to abandon plans to make Euston station to London terminal for the high speed line after suggestions a cost-cutting exercise could see it end at Old Oak Common, in the west of the capital. 

Speaking during a Q&A session at Henley Literary Festival, Mrs May said HS2 should not be scrapped. 

‘I will give you two comments on HS2’, she said. ‘First of all, we have to think about why HS2 was designed in the first place. It was because there was a lack of capacity on the West Coast Main Line.

‘So if there is a lack of capacity on the West Coast Main Line, we need more railway capacity to serve the North West.’

The former Conservative leader , who was in Downing Street between 2016 and 2019, said she was in favour of the train line being delivered due because of the extra capacity needed on the railway line to the north west of England

HSW was announced by the last Labour government and back by successive Conservative administrations

She added that there was also an issue for her constituents if the line does not end up terminating in Euston, in central London.

‘If HS2 stops at Old Oak Common, it is going to make our railway journeys into London longer and disrupted potentially over the period that Old Oak Common’s building is being done to enable it to take that end point,’ she said.

‘So I am arguing with Government: ‘Don’t stop at Old Oak Common. You need to take it into Euston because my constituents will be disadvantaged if you don’t’. 

Her comments come just days after Boris Johnson revealed his ‘suppressed fury’ at Rishi Sunak’s decision to throw the future of the line into doubt.

Mr Sunak has fuelled speculation about the future of the project this week by repeatedly refusing to confirm that HS2 will be extended to Manchester, or even that the planned line from Birmingham will reach central London.

Whitehall sources confirmed that Mr Sunak is all but convinced that the soaring cost of the flagship rail scheme, which began life under the last Labour government, can no longer be justified. 

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Johnson says the latest ‘spasm of uncertainty’ risks undermining the entire levelling up agenda – which was central to the Conservative Party’s landslide victory in 2019 – and damaging long-term investment in the North.

Mr Johnson said that scaling back the project, which experts believe could cost over £100 billion, would risk undermining the Government’s levelling up agenda

Mr Sunak has fuelled speculation about the future of the project this week by repeatedly refusing to confirm that HS2 will be extended to Manchester, or even that the planned line from Birmingham will reach central London (Pictured arriving with his wife Akshata Murty at the venue on the eve of Britain’s Conservative Party’s annual conference) 

‘If we delay or cut the northern legs, if we truncate HS2 – then we are betraying the North of the country and the whole agenda of levelling up,’ he wrote. 

He warned that ‘deluded’ attempts at penny-pinching will backfire. He wrote: ‘Cancel HS2? Cut off the northern legs? We must be out of our minds.’

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak hints he could scrap the Manchester leg of HS2 and suggests the money could be spent on fixing potholes 

Rishi Sunak (pictured on September 20) hinted he was ready to scrap the Manchester leg of HS2

He added that a cost-cutting plan to terminate HS2 at Old Oak Common could mean services from Birmingham to central London are actually slower than today, making the project a ‘total white elephant’.

But yesterday, Mr Sunak gave the clearest signal yet that the northern leg to Manchester is for the chop. 

In an interview with The Sun, he said: ‘I’ve got under the bonnet. I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t work and what I want to do differently. That’s the phase we’re in.’

HSW was announced by the last Labour government and back by successive Conservative administrations. In 2015, it was given a £55.7 billion budget for its route from London to Birmingham, with a Y-shaped section including Manchester and Leeds. 

The original budget has ballooned to £71 billion and some insiders believe it is on course to top £100 billion, with the spiralling costs said to have alarmed the Prime Minister. 

Transport Secretary Mark Harper was quizzed on the prospect of the project being truncated during an interview with Times Radio today, but he refused to comment on ‘speculation’

‘If the Government has anything to say, we’ll say that in the usual way in due course,’ he said. 

Sir Jeremy Wright, a former attorney general and culture secretary, has also pressed ministers to ‘finish the job’. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme his constituents in Kenilworth and Southam wanted the benefits they were promised in exchange for going through the ‘local pain’ of having housing and ancient woodland demolished to make way for the high-speed railway line.  

‘I don’t think that gain, that advantage strategically to the nation, comes from a single line that runs from London to Birmingham,’ he said.

‘So I think it is important, not just for my constituents but from the strategic point of view, that we complete the network at least as far as Manchester, and I hope one day beyond that.

‘We need to finish it in a way that delivers its intended benefits.’

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