HS2: Labour mayors including Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham push for Sunak to commit to Northern link of project
Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham are among the group issuing a joint plea to the government to fully deliver the HS2 project as planned
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Five Labour mayors, including London mayor Sadiq Khan and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, are urging Rishi Sunak to not abandon the northern leg of the controversial HS2 porject amid rumours that the government could be preparing to scrap the Birmingham to Manchester link.
Khan and Burnham are due to meet with West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin, South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard and Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram in Leeds on Wednesday 2 September. The group are due to discuss the impact that scrapping the northern link of the railway project could have on towns and cities across the northern of England.
It comes after the originally planned HS2 link to Leeds was scrapped in 2021.
In a joint statement released ahead of their meeting, the group said that they have all been "inundated" with concerns from local residents and constituents about the “economic damage that will result from any decision not to proceed with HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) in full”. Phase two of the controversial project has already seen work begin in towns and villages across the country.
The statement read: “Investment in transport infrastructure is a huge driver of economic growth – creating jobs, increasing productivity and opening up new business opportunities. HS2 and NPR will deliver this right across our regions.
“This government has said repeatedly that it is committed to levelling up in the Midlands and North. Failure to deliver HS2 and NPR will leave swathes of the North with Victorian transport infrastructure that is unfit for purpose and cause huge economic damage in London and the South, where construction of the line has already begun.”
It added: “The UK does not need a new line that only goes from Birmingham to Old Oak Common, which is six miles from central London.
“This does nothing for the North of England. The full Y-shaped HS2 plan was designed to deliver economic benefit right across the country not only between the North and London but between Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham. All of these gains look set to be lost if media reports this week are to be believed.”
Khan, Burnham, Brabin, Coppard and Rotheram have also urged the delivery of the Northern Powerhouse Rail project in full, adding that this will ensure “not only North-South but West-East connectivity between Liverpool and Hull, via Manchester Airport”.
It comes after the Prime Minister has received backlash from outside and inside his own party for the rumoured plans to scrap the northern link of the HS2 project in a bid to curb spiralling costs. Sunak was reportedly "alarmed" by the ballooning budget of HS2, with some reports suggesting that costs have now surpassed £100 billion, compared to the £55.7b estimated for the whole project in 2015.
Home Officer minister Chris Philp said that Sunak was reviewing how the cost of HS2 could be "controlled" but stated that there had been no decision made on the option to axe or delay the northern link. Reports suggested that Sunak could be preparing to announced the move at the Conservative Party Conference on Sunday 1 October in Manchester, however he may now be looking at delaying the announcement until the autumn statement in November.