HS2: Chancellor Sajid Javid backs project ahead of crucial meeting
Written by The Newsroom on January 30, 2020
Sajid Javid has decided to throw his support behind HS2 ahead of a key meeting with Boris Johnson later.
The chancellor is expected to tell the PM he supports the controversial London to Birmingham rail link after studying Treasury analysis of its impact, as first reported by the Financial Times.
A leaked report has suggested the project could cost almost double the £56bn originally expected in 2015.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the HS2 decision would come next month.
No 10 said the meeting, also involving Mr Shapps, was expected to go a long way towards reaching a verdict.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the mood music seemed to be pointing towards going ahead but massive anxieties remained.
She said senior government figures had suggested that cancelling the project at this stage would be a “credibility issue”.
During Transport Questions in the Commons on Thursday, Tory MP Eddie Hughes said: “One of the ways to address regional disparity in transport investment might be to continue with HS2.
“Will the secretary of state join the chancellor in supporting continuation of that project when he meets with the prime minister later today?”
Mr Shapps replied: “I don’t wish to disappoint my honourable friend but he won’t have to wait very long, and we will have an announcement on this next month.”
Speaking on ITV’s Peston programme on Wednesday, Mr Shapps said: “This is probably the biggest investment, biggest infrastructure project possibly in the world, certainly in Europe, and the public would expect us to look carefully at it.”
Phase 1 of the rail line between London and Birmingham is due to open at the end of 2026, with the second phase to Leeds and Manchester scheduled for completion by 2032-33.
It is designed to carry trains capable of travelling at 250mph (402km/h).
The government commissioned a review into HS2 last August, designed, ministers said, to determine whether the project could still be deemed value for money.
Billions of pounds have already been spent on it, but Mr Shapps has refused to rule out scrapping it entirely.
He revealed last week he had asked for more data before making a “massive decision” on HS2, after a leaked government review found it could cost £106bn.
The unpublished report, which was seen by the Financial Times, said there was “considerable risk” that estimated costs could rise by another 20% – but it did conclude that despite the ballooning bill, it should still go ahead.
The government previously promised to make a decision on HS2 before the end of 2019.
Mr Johnson faced calls to back HS2 from Conservative MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
Updates from the Cannock Chase Radio News Desk via BBC Stoke and Staffordshire