The ongoing debate surrounding the potential termination of the HS2 high-speed rail link expansion between Birmingham and Manchester mounts. The project’s abandonning is deemed a “vandalistic act” according to George Osborne, the former chancellor.
Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, voiced his concerns about the cancellation, envisaging a detrimental “north-south schism”. As the government has withheld assurances regarding the Midlands and north west connection’s continuity, rumours about the railway extension continue to multiply.
Grant Shapps, the incumbent Defence Secretary and previous Transport Secretary, expressed the necessity to reconsider the HS2 plans due to escalating costs which he described as “crazy”. The resolution on HS2 is anticipated to arrive swiftly, possibly within the week.
With the annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester slated for Sunday, Conservative MP Steve Brine raised concerns about the project’s cancelling, given its significance to the city. The HS2 scheme, currently in the middle of its initial phase between west London and Birmingham, aims to bind London, the Midlands, and the north of England. However, the project has already confronted delays, cost surges and cuts, most famously the proposed eastern leg between Birmingham and Leeds.
HS2’s latest projected costs, excluding the axed eastern section, pile up to approximately £71bn. Last week, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt commented on the spending as becoming “uncontrollably high.”
Yet, George Osborne and Lord Heseltine, writing for the Times, argued that abandoning the Manchester route and possibly the connection between west London and Euston station, would tantamount to “huge economic self-harm” and a “short-sighted decision”. They asked the prime minister not to succumb to such an act.
Shapps abstained from commenting on whether there will be a follow-up on separate plans for the Northern Powerhouse rail scheme between Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool if the HS2 northern section is terminated.
Mr Burnham criticized the termination of the HS2 expansion as it “wrenches the spirit” out of plans for the Northern Powerhouse project. He argued that without this project, the north of England would be trapped in an infrastructure reminiscent of the Victorian era for potentially a century to come.
In a time where the South gets significant infrastructure upgradations, berefting the North of similar opportunities paves the way for the evolution of the “north-south divide into a north-south chasm,” quite the contrary to what was originally promised in the Parliament, he added.
The Labour party, despite its enthusiasm, hasn’t confirmed if they would fund the HS2 line to Manchester if the Conservatives kill it. Lack of transparent information from the government is cited as the reason behind the indecision.
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