Threat to HS2 Manchester branch dubbed a ‘betrayal’

Critics have hit out after reports that the government is considering scrapping the Birmingham-to-Manchester phase of HS2.

Speculation arose after a photo of a document allegedly used in a meeting between the prime minister and chancellor was published by the Independent. It appeared to show a calculation of savings from scrapping different parts of the route.

No 10 has refused to confirm that the Manchester route is going ahead.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said: “We are committed to HS2, to the project. I can’t comment on the speculation that’s a result of a photograph. We are as you know looking at the rephasing of the work in the best interests of passengers and taxpayers.”

Civil Engineering Contractors Association chief executive Alasdair Reisner said the move would be a “betrayal” of the industry.

He said: “For a decade, companies the length and breadth of the UK have been chivvied to get ready for high-speed rail.

“They have invested, built relationships, planned innovation and skills, only to have the carpet pulled from under them, to be told that they are on their own. Then the government has the audacity to ask why UK construction is so expensive.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham tweeted: “The southern half of England gets a modern rail system and the North left with Victorian infrastructure.

“Levelling up? My a**e.”

The delivery of HS2 has run into serious problems in the past year. Government watchdog the Infrastructure and Projects Authority rated the project ‘unachievable’ in a July report.

Delays to the construction of the line between Birmingham and Crewe were announced in March this year, owing to “significant inflationary pressure”.

Concerns have also been raised about the suitability of ground conditions for the proposed route between Crewe and Manchester. According to geologists, the high salt content in one area of the Cheshire Plain makes the ground prone to subsidence.

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