HS2: Rishi Sunak refuses to 'speculate' whether high-speed rail line will link Manchester and London

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According to a leaked photograph published by The Independent, the government could be planning to scrap the northern stretch of HS2 in a bid to cut on costs

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has refused to guarantee that HS2 will link Manchester and London after a leaked photograph appeared to show government plans to scrap the northern leg of the railway.

The photograph, published by The Independent, appeared to show that the government could be planning to scrap the HS2 extension between Birmingham and Manchester. The plans are alleged to be as part of a bid to save £35 billion as the controversial project continues to go above and beyond its estimated budget of between £75b and £85b according to 2019 figures.

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Sunak is said to have been in talks with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt about concerns over the soaring cost of the HS2 budget. It comes as almost £2.3 billion has already been put into the second phase of the project to stretch HS2 further to Manchester and Leeds.

When asked about the leaked information, Sunak told reporters: “I’m not going to speculate on lots of the other things that people will be talking about.”

It comes after speculation over the status with the project last week, with junior transport minister Richard Holden only telling the House of Commons that ministers would only “continue to update the House regularly on HS2”, adding that the government remained "focused on its delivery".

Sections of the line in the northern section have already been axed, with the line between Leeds and Birmingham already scrapped. Former Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced in November 2021 that the extension to Leeds would be scrapped, replaced by a link between the city and Manchester.

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Labour has accused the Tories of a "great betrayal" with the rollout of the HS2 project. However, party leader Sir Keir Starmer has refused to commit to completing HS2 in full if Labour is voted into power.

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