British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has refrained from committing to the completion of the northern section of the ambitious HS2 high-speed railway project.
The government is currently deliberating whether to postpone or abandon the initiative due to its rapidly escalating costs.
HS2, touted as Europe’s largest infrastructure undertaking, was originally intended to connect London to key cities in northern England, including Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. However, the government has already abandoned plans for the Leeds connection.
When questioned about the potential scrapping of the Manchester leg, Sunak acknowledged that construction was already underway for the London-to-Birmingham section.
Nevertheless, he emphasized the need to assess the cost-effectiveness of such projects, stating, “I know there’s a lot of speculation on this, but we’ve already got spades in the ground on the first bit of HS2, and what we’re doing is getting on with delivering it.”
Regarding the second phase extending to Manchester, he stressed the government’s responsibility to ensure value for money in such endeavors, remarking, “But what I would say is HS2 is just one of the many things we are doing to level up across our country and it’s one of the many things we’re doing to invest in the north and in transport infrastructure in the north,” Sunak added.
Sunak’s comments came ahead of the Conservative Party conference scheduled to take place in Manchester the following week. An official announcement regarding the future of HS2 is not expected until later in the year.
The HS2 project has been fraught with controversy and budgetary concerns since its inception. Critics argue that its costs have spiraled out of control and question its economic viability.
Proponents, on the other hand, argue that it will bring much-needed infrastructure and connectivity to the North of England, potentially driving economic growth and job creation.
As the government weighs its options, the fate of this colossal infrastructure venture remains uncertain, with implications for the nation’s transportation landscape and regional development.