HS2 leg to Manchester ‘axed’ with billions moved to transport projects in north

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The northern leg of HS2 is being axed, with billions being allocated for other transport projects in the North instead, it has been claimed.

The move, which Number 10 has denied, is being widely reported and means the North West will no longer get a high-speed rail connection to London and follows weeks of speculation over whether the rail line would be completed as planned.

Former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Theresa May have been among those calling for the Manchester leg to be completed.

Despite the rumours, a government source told the Express that “no decisions have been taken” on HS2.

Should Rishi Sunak announce the move at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester it would mark a significant change in government policy, ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston reports.

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The first indications of the change came after the Independent reported ministers were considering scrapping the leg because of delays and rising costs. They said that ditching the northern phase could save around £34bn.

Instead, money will be reinvested in alternative transport projects such as bus, rail and road schemes.

Speaking to Sky this morning, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said people in the North were being treated as second-class citizens. He said: “An east-west line is really important for the north of England, as well as [a] north-south [high-speed link].

“Why is it always that people here are forced to choose? That we can’t have everything, ‘you can have this or you can have that but you can’t have everything.’

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‘Why are we always forced to choose?’

“Why is it that people in the North are always forced to choose, why are we always treated as second-class citizens when it comes to transport?”

Ahead of the conference, Mr Sunak told the BBC he wanted to make sure cities like Leeds were “treated like London” in terms of their transport plans.

He added: “London has always got this multi-year settlement so they can plan how to invest in their area. That’s now happening to cities across the North.”

Ahead of this week’s conference, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson had claimed that scrapping or delaying the northern leg of HS2 would be “betraying the North” and “the whole agenda of levelling up”.

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Delivering HS2 has been a key pledge of the Conservative Party, but it has been hit with extensive delays and costs as the original opening date of 2026 fell back to 2033.

Alongside rumours about the Manchester leg, there are also questions over the London leg and whether HS2 will terminate at Euston station in the centre of the capital or Old Oak Common in west London instead.

A spokesperson for the High Speed Rail Group said:“Today’s further speculation about HS2 is both alarming and damaging. 30,000 people are out there on the route today, building this new railway, and they deserve to know whether they will be allowed to finish the job they have started.

“For years the Government has promised the North the required transport infrastructure to deliver a genuine northern powerhouse. To pull the rug from under them now would undermine trust in politics for millions of people.

“It is time to put this uncertainty to an end and for the Government to announce its intentions. Should they wish to rework or pause Phase 2, they need to keep the Phase 2 Bill going through Parliament and commit to completing the line into Euston.

“The main spending decision does not need to be taken until the point it passes, and keeping on track with the Bill will at least keep the option alive.”

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