Labour refuses to commit to finishing HS2 rail project in full

Labour is refusing to commit to completing the HS2 in full after The Independent revealed that Rishi Sunak’s government is considering scrapping parts of the landmark rail project.

Sir Keir Starmer is under pressure to save the high-speed rail line after we reported that the prime minister and chancellor Jeremy Hunt have discussed scrapping Phase 2, north of Birmingham, in a bid to save money.

But Labour frontbencher Pat McFadden said Labour would have to look carefully at the costs, given inflation and the fact the government had put “a question mark” over its completion.

It comes as one of the Labour architects of the high-speed rail project, Lord Andrew Adonis, said it would be “utter stupidity and false economy” to axe key parts of HS2 now.

Asked whether the party would finish the line all the way to Manchester, Mr McFadden told BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “We want to see the railway being built. It looks as though the government is now putting a question mark over this. There may be revised costs to that.”

The shadow Cabinet Office minister said: “When this started, a price tag of about £30bn was put on it. Those prices haven’t been raised since 2019 – we’ve had quite a lot of inflation since then. So I want to see what happens in the coming months.”

The key Starmer ally and Labour’s election campaign coordinator said: “We want to see the railway being built – but also, like everything else, we’ve got to look at the costs of everything we do.”

Pressed again whether Labour would commit to building HS2 in full, Mr McFadden told the host: “I want to see what this costs and we’ll make the decision in the manifesto.”

A HS2 site at Birmingham

Despite Mr McFadden’s remarks, The Independent understands that Labour’s formal position remains unchanged – that HS2 must be delivered in full.

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MPs and northern mayors, along with business and transport leaders, have reacted with fury after this publication first reported that Phase 2 of HS2 could be ditched by the Tory government over cost concerns.

A cost estimate seen by The Independent shows that the government has already spent £2.3bn on the second stage of the high-speed railway from Birmingham to Manchester, but shelving the northern phase would save up to £34bn.

Mr Sunak is said to be keen to axe part of the HS2 link running into central London so that it stops six miles north of Euston.

The PM is pushing to end the line early in the capital so that trains would have to stop at Old Oak Common, six miles away from Euston, according to The Times.

George Osborne says abandoning second leg of HS2 would be ‘real tragedy’

Lord Adonis, the Labour transport minister under Gordon Brown, shared his horror on Twitter/X. “I can’t over-emphasise the social and economic damage to the north of England and Scotland of cancelling HS2 beyond Birmingham,” he tweeted.

The peer, who pioneered the plan in his two years at the Department for Transport, added: “It will decimate Manchester, Leeds and their regions if W Mids-London is the sole HS route. HS2 will then have to be extended. Utter stupidity and false economy.”

Though Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt – who met to discuss costs earlier this week – are not thought to have come to a final decision, the chancellor could set out the plan for HS2 as soon as the mini-Budget.

The chancellor is desperate to find some fiscal headroom to allow for tax cuts either in the autumn or as part of the full spring Budget.

Labour leader Keir Starmer is in Montreal this weekend

Meanwhile, Mr McFadden said people smugglers are “half running” the UK’s asylum system. “We’ve got to crack down on that,” he told the BBC.

Asked if a Labour government would put a limit on the number of migrants it is willing to accept from the EU as part of a returns deal, he said “a lot of nonsense” has been spoken about Labour’s proposals.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an allocation of numbers, we’re talking about individual cases where a child may have strong family links here. It’s not ‘we’ll take this many, you take that many’ – that’s not the kind of negotiation we want to have.”

Sir Keir also attacked the Tories, saying they had been “pumping out complete garbage” on Labour’s plan to seek a returns deal. “There is obviously an EU quota system for EU members. Well, it’s obvious we are not an EU member,” he told Sky News.

The Labour leader added: “We will not be part of that. We are not an EU member. This is why what the government’s saying, it’s been complete garbage. And even that scheme within the EU is not working.”

Source: UK Politics -


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