Sunak set to scrap northern leg of HS2 to Manchester
Rishi Sunak is expected to overrule the concerns of Tory grandees, business and northern leaders by announcing a scrapping of HS2 to Manchester after being presented with plans from the Treasury.
A package appeared to have been signed off by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on Monday amid suggestions the pill could be sweetened by improvements for northern infrastructure.
Downing Street insists that “no final decisions” have been made as the Conservative Party holds its annual conference in Manchester, with Cabinet sign-off expected before an announcement.
A spokesman for Mr Hunt did not deny plans surrounding axing the northern leg from Birmingham had been drawn up in the Treasury, carefully saying: “A decision will be announced in due course.
“It’s not the Treasury’s announcement … it’s for the Prime Minister.”
No 10 said that some reports on the plans were “incorrect”, but did not set out which details were wrong and did not deny that a Cabinet meeting would be arranged.
In response to the reports, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “After months of embarrassing wrangling by this chaotic Tory government, it is now confirmed that HS2 won’t link to north Wales from Crewe.
“The whole ‘England-and-Wales’ sham excuse has fallen apart entirely. This is now clearly, undeniably, a project that benefits England only.
“That means Wales is owed billions from the Birmingham-London link. Westminster no longer has any excuses to deny what Wales is owed.”
Last week, as speculation grew about the northern phase of HS2 being axed, the Welsh Government again urged Westminster to reconsider its designation as an England and Wales project.
Not a single inch of track is being laid in Wales, but it was argued that there would be benefits, including reduced journey times when the £180 billion project reached Crewe.
Earlier this year Tory ministers announced that construction of HS2’s Birmingham to Crewe section (phase 2a) and the Euston terminus in London would be delayed by at least two years to reduce costs.
The estimated delivery date for HS2’s phase 2b western leg from Crewe to Manchester had been put within the range of 2035 to 2041 and the bill for phase 2b is still going through parliament.
According to the Welsh Government changing the projects designation to an England-only project could mean an extra £5bn for Wales.
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