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HS2 Future Remains Unclear as Number 10 withholds Clarification

Tory infighting and varying stances from major parties has led to intense debate over the future of the HS2 project, ahead of Conservative Party Conference.

The prime minister’s official spokesman has remained tight-lipped amidst mounting speculation about the fate of the zero-carbon, high-speed rail project, HS2. 

Speculation is rife over whether the leg of HS2 connecting Birmingham to Manchester may be scrapped or delayed in the near future due to escalating costs.

The spokesman said, “Without getting into a specific project, I think the Government has and will continue to have a good record about levelling up and driving growth in the north.”

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The government’s refusal to comment on this issue has stirred up debate in northern England, where levelling up initiatives were promised to bridge regional disparities. 

Housing Minister Rachel Maclean assured the public that no decision had been reached concerning the future of the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2, but emphasised the importance of assessing travel patterns and transportation priorities.

Government ‘Remains Committed to Levelling Up’

Speaking to LBC, Ms Maclean reiterated that, “the government remains committed to levelling up.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also affirmed his commitment to levelling up while refraining from endorsing the completion of HS2 to the North. During a visit to a community centre in Hertfordshire, Mr. Sunak defended the government’s broader agenda.

Mr. Sunak said: “Transport infrastructure is a key part of that, not just big rail projects, but also local projects, improving local bus services, fixing potholes; all of these things make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives.”

As speculation swirls around the project’s future, prominent figures from the major political parties have weighed in on the debate.

Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, deemed scrapping HS2 a “decision of epic proportions for our part of the world.”

Mr. Burnham warned that doing so would leave the north of England with outdated infrastructure and exacerbate the north-south divide, contrary to the government’s levelling-up promises.

Mr. Burnham cautioned that it would signify, “The very opposite of the levelling up that we were promised in this Parliament.”

The Liberal Democrat Party reiterated its support for HS2, underscoring the potential benefits of the project.

Tory Party Divide

Within the Tory party, a clear divide has arisen. Grant Shapps, who recently transitioned from his transport role to become the defence secretary, deemed it “crazy” not to reconsider HS2 in light of the UK’s economic situation. 

Mr. Shapps’ comments signalled a rift within the Conservative Party, with former Chancellor George Osborne and ex-Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine voicing strong opposition to scrapping the Manchester route.

In a joint statement published in The Times, Mr. Osborne and Lord Heseltine cautioned against cancelling the project, suggesting that governments are remembered for what they build and create. 

They emphasised the international implications of abandoning the northern section of HS2, which would leave it as little more than a shuttle service from Birmingham to a London suburb.

The project’s potential cost escalation has also raised concerns. The Sunday Telegraph reported an £8 billion increase in the estimated cost of the initial London-Birmingham stretch, bringing it up to £53 billion.

The prime minister and chancellor are expected to convene in the coming days to discuss a course of action on HS2. 

Some reports have suggested that the northern leg of the project could face a delay of up to seven years, hinting at the

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