HS2: Mancheter leg 'will be axed', according to reports

The government has denied that it has made a definitive decision over whether to scrap the HS2 rail link to Manchester - amid deafening claims to the contrary.
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It comes after the speculation that has been swirling over the future of the northern leg of the high speed project reached fever pitch on the second day of the Conservative Party conference, which is being held in the city at the centre of the rumours.

Early on Monday afternoon, ITV News’ political editor Robert Peston reported that the axe had fallen, while The Guardian suggested that an emergency cabinet meeting could be held on Tuesday to “rubber stamp” the change.

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A Downing Street spokesperson said: "These reports are incorrect. No final decisions have been taken on Phase 2 of HS2."

However, a spokesperson for chancellor Jeremy Hunt refused to deny the stories - and said only that an announcement would be made in “due course”, according to ITV News.

Meanwhile, the journalist and commentator Paul Mason questioned what ditching the northern section of the route would actually look like.

“It's not clear what [Rishi] Sunak is scrapping. Is it the ‘Western leg’ - phase 2b of HS2, from Crewe to Manchester - or is it 2a to Crewe as well? The latter got Royal Assent in 2021 so reversing it would, presumably, have to go through Parliament,” he posted on the site formerly known as Twitter.

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In local and regional media interviews last week, the Prime Minister refused to quash the rumours that the project north of Birmingham was under threat. Mr. Sunak has spoken of the importance of east-west rail links across the North of England, although the scheme to improve those - Northern Powerhouse Rail - is reliant on some elements of HS2 infrastructure.

The bill for HS2 had reportedly spiralled to £106bn by early 2020, almost double the £55.7bn estimate in 2015, when the government claimed that every £1 invested in the scheme would yield more than £2.50 worth of economic benefit.

In 2021, the planned stretch between the Midlands and Leeds was scrapped and earlier this year, it emerged that the London terminus would be Old Oak Common - six miles away from its initially planned end point at Euston station - as a result of increasing costs.