HS2: Government could make decision on future of rail project this week | Politics News

Number 10 could bring forward a decision on HS2 to this week after questions about the line eclipsed the Conservative Party conference.

One plan being considered by senior Tory figures would be to hold a cabinet meeting in Manchester, mid-conference, and announce it here this week.

The development was revealed on the first episode of Politics at Jack and Sam’s, a new podcast from Sky News and Politico which previews the week ahead in UK politics.

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The Department of Transport (DfT) has worked up a package of alternative projects – rail, bus and road schemes – which could be funded from money saved by scrapping the Manchester to Birmingham leg of the project.

Ministers hope by outlining the beneficiaries, they can take the sting out of the argument.

Former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Theresa May have led the opposition to the change.

There could then be a visit this week by the prime minister to publicise where will get the funding instead – or even announced at Labour conference next week in a bid to disrupt their annual gathering.

It would be hard to keep any decision under wraps once cabinet has agreed to it, however.

No final decision has been made on whether to press ahead with a decision this week.

Officially the decision is only expected by the autumn statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s financial statement in mid-November.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told Sky News today that he “won’t speculate” about when an announcement on the line will be made.

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Has PM scrapped HS2 changes?

Read more:
What is HS2 and why are parts being delayed
PM reviewing how HS2 costs ‘can be controlled’

Speculation about the future of the Birmingham to Manchester link was sparked by a report in The Independent that government was considering changes to the line.

Since then, ministers all the way up to the prime minister have been unable to confirm if HS2 will run between the two cities.

Transport minister Richard Holden told Sky News today that the prime minister is “working with the chancellor, kicking the tyres on the entire project”.

He said there has been “huge inflation across the entire economy over the last few years… and double that in constriction costs”.

He said the chancellor and the PM are “going through all of those details and rightly so”.

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Former transport secretary – and now the holder of the defence brief – Grant Shapps told Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips that the government remained committed to northern rail infrastructure and greater connectivity.

He mentioned the impact of COVID-19 on travel patterns and hinted at potential adjustments in the sequencing and pace of HS2 due to its high cost, stating: “Money is not infinite.”

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