HS2: Rishi Sunak 'alarmed' by costs of project amid Cabinet split over potential scrapping of Northern leg
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According to The Times, the Prime Minister is said to have told his allies that he is unsupportive of seeing the cost of the project continue to rise after being shown figures which suggest that the completed HS2 line could top £100 billion. According to recent estimates adjusted for 2022 inflation, the project has cost around £92 billion to date.
There are rumours circling of a split in Sunak's cabinet over the future of the HS2 line. The PM is said to be considering scrapping or delaying the Birmingham to Manchester section of the line, despite work already beginning on phase two. He is also reportedly considering ending the line in a west London suburb instead of the planned terminus in Euston station in a bid to but costs further.
Tory MP Esther McVey told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Thank goodness that the Prime Minister is looking at HS2’s spiralling costs, because what might have been feasible at £37 billion really is not at £120 billion going northwards.
“Things have significantly changed since lockdown. People will now sooner jump on a Zoom to save time and money. So it’s the right thing to do and yes, stop it as soon as possible…
“The Prime Minister is saying that money, £120 billion plus for High Speed 2, would go into the local infrastructure across the North, connecting the great cities of the North from Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, connecting all of those up, as well as giving better local transport, because HS2 is sucking the money and the life out of our local transport.”
Transport secretary Mark Harper and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove are both said to be against the plans to pull back on the HS2 project according to The Independent. However, a spokesperson for Harper has said that this claim is "completely untrue".
Prominent figures such as former Chancellor George Osbourne and Lord Heseltine labelled the possible move as a "gross act of vandalism" which would mean "abandoning" the North and the Midlands.
Speculation is rife over Sunak reportedly unveiling the plans at the Conservative Party Conference. The conference is due to take place in Manchester on Sunday 1 October.
It comes after Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, who was recently promoted to the role from a transport minister position, said that it would be "crazy " not to reconsider the project in light of the ballooning budget.
However, in response to the speculation, Sunak told reporters on Monday (25 September): “This kind of speculation that people are making is not right. We’ve got spades in the ground, we’re getting on and delivering.”