The UK government has unveiled a preferred route for second phase of the HS2 rail project

Cancelling northern section of HS2 would be ‘huge betrayal’, says transport secretary

Image credit: PA

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has denied reports that the second stage of HS2 “might not happen” saying that this would be a “huge betrayal” of the Midlands and the North.

Grayling said the reports are “completely inaccurate” some months after Labour peer Michael Byng suggested that the cost of the project is spiralling out of control and could cost double the £55.7bn budget.

In November, Grayling reportedly told rail industry figures that the extension of the railway north of Birmingham was “not in the bag” and the project “still needs support if it is to definitely go to Leeds”.

According to Tory MP Bill Cash - who called for a review into the “disastrous” project - this support is lacking as “half the Cabinet” want to abandon the rail programme. 

The Parliamentary bill for Phase 1, between London and Birmingham, was passed in February 2017, while Phase 2a between Birmingham and Crewe is going through Parliament.

Legislation needed for Phase 2b, extending the railway to Manchester and Leeds, has been delayed.

The Department for Transport has previously said this is to improve HS2’s connectivity with east-west rail lines across the North.

Speaking at an event attended by MPs and transport leaders in Parliament, Mr Grayling said: “High Speed 2 is vital beyond Birmingham and failure to deliver it would be a dereliction of our duties to improve the life chances of everyone in this country, an abandonment of our ambition for one of the most extraordinary engineering projects since the Victorian age and a huge betrayal of the people in the Midlands and the North.”

He added: “We are committed to a second stage between the West Midlands and Leeds and between Crewe and Manchester, completing the Y axis.”

On Tuesday, a former HS2 chairman claimed the railway should have been given a different name because its capacity is more important than its speed.

Sir Terry Morgan, who resigned from HS2 Ltd last month, told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee: “I think most people regret actually calling it HS2.”

Earlier this month, HS2 revealed its design for the revamped Euston Tube vent shaft, which will pave the way for six new platforms and a concourse at that station upon its reopening in 2026. 

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