Tory MP Michael Fabricant has called on Rishi Sunak to “cut his losses” with the HS2 scheme as the Prime Minister continues to face pressure about its future.
It comes amid concerns over mounting costs, with Downing Street claiming there is precedent to delaying aspects of the high-speed rail scheme due to “affordability pressures” as inflation soars.
In October, the Government estimated the cost of the Manchester leg at up to £71billion.
In June, it reported that £22.5billion had already been spent on the initial leg to Birmingham, and approximately £2.3billion had been allocated to subsequent phases, encompassing expenses related to both labour and land.
Speaking on GB News, Fabricant claimed HS2 was originally a “brilliant idea”, but waning demand and Government interference has stifled its prospects.
“Originally, it was going to connect with the Channel Tunnel in Paris”, he said.
“It was going to go into Birmingham New Street, which would have made sense because that actually is a big interchange.
“The demand has fallen. Since Covid, the number of people who hold season tickets has fallen by about 38, 40 per cent because people aren’t using the train as much.
“The Government’s own estimates originally were that for every pound invested in HS2, they would get £2.50 back, the latest estimate suggests we would get just 90p back.
“We have got to cut our losses.”
Rishi Sunak is under pressure over how he intends to deal with HS2
Some continue to support the project, including Labour mayors Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham, Tracy Brabin, Oliver Coppard and Stever Rotheram, who warned Sadiq Khan is “risking the cohesion” of the country.
“We will have a conversation about timetables and re-phasing, but do not pull the plug on this infrastructure. Do not pull the plug on this investment,” he said.
“If they build this line, not even from central London but outer London through the Home Counties to the West Midlands, basically it will become a permanent symbol of the places that Whitehall cares about. It would be a huge message to the north of England that we just don’t feature in their thinking.
“And honestly, I think it will build a real groundswell of opinion for people here to say ‘No, we’re just not having this anymore, we’re not having a country that is run like this’.
“We deserve equal treatment here in the North with other parts of the country and seriously I think Whitehall are really risking the cohesion of the country if they don’t take a decision that is seen to be fair for everybody.”
Sunak may look to introduce a string of regional transport improvements as he attempts to limit the possible political fallout that could arise from opting to abandon the Manchester leg of HS2.
Measures would include bringing forward Northern Powerhouse Rail between Manchester and Leeds.
Some have been concerned that details coming out this week would negatively affect the Conservatives’ party conference in Manchester.
He warned Sunak against “mutilating” HS2, saying it would be a “tragedy”.
Downing Street has repeatedly refused to comment on HS2 in recent days, and are yet to confirm whether they are abandoning the policy. Rishi Sunak has insisted he remains committed to levelling up Britain.