A proposed design for an HS2 train
Sajid Javid has decided to throw his support behind HS2 ahead of a key meeting with Boris Johnson later.The chancellor is expected to tell the PM he supports the controversial London to Birmingham rail link after studying Treasury analysis of its impact, as first reported by the Financial Times.A leaked report has suggested the project could cost almost double the £56bn originally expected in 2015.Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the HS2 decision would come next month.No 10 said the meeting, also involving Mr Shapps, was expected to go a long way towards reaching a verdict.BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the mood music seemed to be pointing towards going ahead but massive anxieties remained.She said senior government figures had suggested that cancelling the project at this stage would be a “credibility issue”.
HS2: Give me the facts, says Shapps
Will HS2 ever get built?
During Transport Questions in the Commons on Thursday, Tory MP Eddie Hughes said: “One of the ways to address regional disparity in transport investment might be to continue with HS2.”Will the secretary of state join the chancellor in supporting continuation of that project when he meets with the prime minister later today?”Mr Shapps replied: “I don’t wish to disappoint my honourable friend but he won’t have to wait very long, and we will have an announcement on this next month.” Speaking on ITV’s Peston programme on Wednesday, Mr Shapps said: “This is probably the biggest investment, biggest infrastructure project possibly in the world, certainly in Europe, and the public would expect us to look carefully at it.”
HS2 rail project to be reviewed
Rail firm Northern to be nationalised
Phase 1 of the rail line between London and Birmingham is due to open at the end of 2026, with the second phase to Leeds and Manchester scheduled for completion by 2032-33. It is designed to carry trains capable of travelling at 250mph (402km/h).
The government commissioned a review into HS2 last August, designed, ministers said, to determine whether the project could still be deemed value for money.Billions of pounds have already been spent on it, but Mr Shapps has refused to rule out scrapping it entirely. He revealed last week he had asked for more data before making a “massive decision” on HS2, after a leaked government review found it could cost £106bn.The unpublished report, which was seen by the Financial Times, said there was “considerable risk” that estimated costs could rise by another 20% – but it did conclude that despite the ballooning bill, it should still go ahead.The government previously promised to make a decision on HS2 before the end of 2019.Mr Johnson faced calls to back HS2 from Conservative MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionHS2: How much work has already been done?
Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, in North Yorkshire, called on the government to increase rail capacity “in and between the North, the Midlands, the South and Scotland”.This could only be done by investing in the Midlands Engine, the Northern Powerhouse and carrying on with HS2, he told the PM.But Tory MP for Buckingham Greg Smith told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he and others would be ready to vote against the government over HS2.”It is absolutely wrong for my constituents,” he said, “and I believe it to be wrong for the country as well and I made very clear commitments in the general election that come what may I will oppose HS2.”Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, called HS2 a “catastrophic waste of money”.He said “better infrastructure” was needed in the North and West Yorkshire and he asked about the government’s intended timetable for completing Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).The NPR project was part of Mr Johnson’s wider commitment to deliver a high-speed railway link across the north of England.Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris said the government was “spending a huge amount of money” on improving infrastructure in the North.Mr Johnson said the government was looking at investing into the North and Midlands and added that MPs could “expect an announcement very shortly” on HS2.The PM also sought to reassure Paul Howell, freshly installed as Sedgefield’s new Conservative MP, who called for a “positive” decision to improve connectivity in his region.Keiran Mullan, Tory MP for Crewe and Nantwich, urged the PM to “get HS2 done to secure jobs across the country”.