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HS2: Rishi Sunak refuses to commit to Manchester link

HS2: Rishi Sunak refuses to commit to Manchester link

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has again refused to say if the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 will be axed.

Asked by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg if the high-speed line would reach Manchester, he said: “We’re getting on with delivering [the project], I’m not going to comment on this speculation.”

Rising costs have led to growing doubts over this second leg of HS2.

The first leg, between London and Birmingham, is already under construction.

HS2 is seen as key to the government’s pledge to “level up” the country. Labour and some Tory MPs have warned against scaling it back.

On Saturday, former PM Theresa May became the latest Conservative voice to warn against downgrading the project.

Andy Street, the Tory mayor of the West Midlands, has also criticised the idea, while London mayor Sadiq Khan warned it could make the UK a “laughing stock”.

But Mr Sunak said he “completely” rejected the criticism, telling Kuenssberg that the government was “absolutely committed to levelling up across this country”.

He highlighted a levelling up fund for 55 towns, adding that the UK was attracting “billions of pound of investment into this country, creating jobs everywhere”.

On Sunday, Transport Minister Richard Holden said the government was right to keep the HS2 leg to Manchester under review as it had a “big impact” on cost.

He told BBC News: “It is right we properly look at it and the chancellor and prime minister really dig into the detail of it.”

Asked if the government was saying it could not currently commit to the line coming to Manchester, he said: “Exactly. There is a lot of detailed work going on.”

He added: “With any large project you’d obviously want to keep it constantly under review… this is one of the biggest projects the country is looking at at the moment.”

Speculation around the future of HS2 has been swirling for weeks, with the PM and other ministers repeatedly declining to confirm whether the project will be scaled back.


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