West Midlands Mayor Andy Street criticises rumoured plans to shelve northern leg of HS2

  • Watch the Conservative mayor's criticism of the Government's rumoured plans

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has hit out at the Prime Minister's expected plans to cancel the construction of HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester.

Mr Street told reporters that the Government has not, in fact, been engaging with the private sector.

A package to shelve HS2 appeared to have been signed off by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announcing the plan today.

No 10 insists no decision has been made, but the Chancellor's office implied that an announcement could be made during the prime minister's conference speech on Wednesday; "A decision will be announced in due course. It’s not the Treasury’s announcement [...] it’s for the Prime Minister."

The Chancellor admitted today on BBC Breakfast that he had to fly to the conference because his train had been cancelled.

Amidst a chaotic mid-Conservative conference announcement in the city, Conservative mayor Andy Street made an impassioned speech appealing to Rishi Sunak, saying; "If you tell the international investment community you are going to do something, you bloody well have to stick to your word."

"You will be turning your back on an opportunity to level up – a once-in-a-generation opportunity," he told reporters.

"You will indeed be damaging your international reputation as a place to invest."

In an impromptu speech, Mr Street told reporters; "We are properly engaging the private sector. Now the Government will tell you the private sector has been fully engaged, [and that] we've had all their offers. That is not correct. This is being run as a statist project by a state organisation.

"So over the past few days what I have been doing is spending my time with the leaders, the chief execs of global private companies, from engineers, designers, banks, investors, all sorts - to say 'is there a different way of doing this?'

"And I promise you, there are many of them who are willing to come forward and offer to help the Government."

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: "This fiasco shows the Conservatives are too divided and too distracted to take this country forward.

"After weeks of chaos and indecision on the biggest infrastructure project in the country, Rishi Sunak’s relaunch is now coming off the rails."

Reports suggest an expanded Northern Powerhouse Rail project linking northern cities and fresh cash for potholes and bus routes could be announced to sweeten the deal.

Meanwhile, the Leader of Birmingham City Council says "this is a disastrous decision for Birmingham and the UK."

But the dramatic cost-cutting decision to shelve the Birmingham-Manchester leg comes amid suggestions the expense has spiralled past £100 billion, and could also see HS2 end at Old Oak Common in the capital’s western suburbs.

Conservative Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen told a conference fringe event that the "indecision" on HS2 was causing a "distraction" as he urged ministers to commit to Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Labour Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said cutting HS2 would be "profoundly depressing" and leave northerners treated as "second class citizens."

Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman Wera Hobhouse said: "Rishi Sunak using a conference in Manchester to cancel the northern leg of HS2 would make Liz Truss look like a political genius.

"Yet again, a Conservative Party conference has become mired in chaos while the country suffers."

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