It appears that a crucial section of the high-speed rail line HS2, the rail link between Birmingham and Manchester, is set to be scrapped. We can’t afford such a luxury.
It is expected that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will bury this part of the project next week. A party conference is scheduled for October 1 in Manchester, and according to The Observer newspaper, a decision will be made by then. There will be discussions with the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt first.
The expansion of the HS2 line, which is meant to connect London to Manchester, was given the green light by the government under Boris Johnson in 2020. The Conservatives aimed to narrow the economic gap between London in the south of England and the more industrial northern part. However, a significant part of the project, between the major cities of Birmingham and Manchester, is now in jeopardy. The cost for the first phase, the connection between London and Birmingham, was initially estimated at 45 billion pounds but is now reported to be 8 billion pounds higher, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
“We need to look at the budget,” said the British Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, in an interview with the BBC. He pointed out that after the COVID-19 crisis and the war in Ukraine, “every responsible government is looking at that and wondering if that’s where we should spend our money.”
However, dozens of business leaders warn that scrapping a part of the high-speed rail line would damage the UK’s reputation with potential investors. The Mayor of London also warns that if the project is not fully completed, it would make little sense and would be a waste of taxpayer money. The high-speed rail line between Birmingham and London is at risk of terminating in the western outskirts of the capital. This would mean that the future route to central London would take more time than the existing train connection.
The decision, if confirmed, comes just days after the UK government’s decision to postpone a ban on the sale of fossil fuel cars by five years. The regulations for replacing natural gas and oil boilers with heat pumps were also eased.