HS2 ‘will go to Manchester’ despite PM cancelling line beyond Birmingham

Business travel leaders have been assured the HS2 high-speed rail project “will happen” despite the government cancelling the planned link beyond Birmingham and Manchester last October.

Former transport secretary Lord Andrew Adonis, who unveiled the plans for HS2 in 2010, told the Business Travel Association conference in London last week: “Let me reassure you – HS2 will happen.

“It will go through to Manchester and be completed around 30 years later than it would have been.”

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Prime minister Rishi Sunak cancelled plans for HS2 to extend beyond Birmingham to Manchester and the East Midlands in October, blaming spiralling costs.

Phase 1 of HS2 linking London to Birmingham will still be completed, but Sunak announced the planned HS2 link from Old Oak Common in west London to Euston would only be built with private investment.

The Public Accounts Committee of MPs reported last month that it was “highly sceptical” that the Euston project would attract private funding.

However, Lord Adonis told the BTA “the station at Euston will be built” despite ruling out any private investment.

Adonis described the government’s decision to axe HS2 beyond Birmingham as “short-termism gone mad” and “an unbelievable act of self-harm”.

He suggested: “The government is desperate for anything to give it a positive message in the run up to the election and thought this [cancelling HS2 beyond Birmingham] would give it money to spend on other projects.”

The decision would mean “there will be fewer seats on trains than at the moment because HS2 trains will be too long for the existing network, so they will have to be split in half and only half an HS2 train will run on to Manchester with fewer seats than on existing Avanti trains.”

Adonis said: “So, we will have spent £100 billion to get fewer seats and no greater frequency to Manchester.”

However, he argued: “There will be a vast improvement to Birmingham and a completely new station at Birmingham International. Birmingham will effectively become an extension of the Northern Line [part of the London Underground]. All that is being built according to plan.”

He warned of “huge congestion” around Birmingham as a consequence of HS2 terminating there and insisted: “HS2 will be completed to Manchester and once it is, it will have to go to Leeds.”

Adonis told the BTA: “I was confident the whole thing would be completed in 20 years. With all the politics around it and the escalating costs, it will be 40 years and three times the cost. But it will happen. The reason I say that is because it is being built.”

He noted tunnel boring has already begun at Old Oak Common to connect HS2 to Euston despite the prime minister’s announcement that this would require private backing.

Adonis described the spiralling costs of transport infrastructure as “classic, to do with all infrastructure projects” in Britain.

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