Rishi Sunak refuses to agree to meet Northern Mayors about HS2 Manchester leg

  • Rishi Sunak spoke to ITV Granada Reports Political Correspondent Andrew Misra

Rishi Sunak has refused to agree to a meeting with Northern Mayors to discuss the future of the high speed rail link between London and Manchester.

There has been much media speculation the prime minister is considering axing the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 due to spiralling costs.

But in an interview with ITV Granada Reports, Rishi Sunak said "no decision" had been made about the future of HS2.

He also repeatedly refused to say he would meet with Metro Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham to discuss the rail link.

During the lively exchange Mr Sunak was asked if he will meet Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, he said: "I meet people all the time."

And, when pushed further on if he would meet him in relation to HS2, he replied: "I've met plenty of Northern leaders already on this thing over the years."

The Prime Minister continued: "I meet people all the time. It's important for people to know what we're actually doing.

"So for the first time, Manchester, like London, Andy Burnham has had a long term transport settlement for the Government like TFL in London does, so that they can plan transport in Greater Manchester, making it easy to get from the suburbs and towns on the outside.

"What we're doing in the North is investing in transport everywhere.

"Now we need to connect up all our northern towns and cities. That's what we're doing improving journey times, improving reliability, more capacity, more frequency.

"That is the issue across the north. I see on the other side of the Pennines from the North West.

"So that is an important thing that we're doing. But the other things are making sure we focus on the transport that people use every day.

"People are out and about in their cars, they want their potholes filled. People use bus services and those are things."

The Labour mayors met in Leeds to issue a joint appeal to Rishi Sunak to deliver HS2 in full. Credit: PA Images

The Labour mayors Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham, Tracy Brabin, Oliver Coppard and Steve Rotheram met in Leeds on 27 September to ask the Prime Minister not to cut HS2 further.

The Times reported that Mr Sunak is “alarmed” at the soaring costs associated with the high-profile project, but he has faced a backlash from Tory grandees, businesses and local politicians who have urged him to stick to the levelling up plan.

When asked if he was still a prime minister for the North, Mr Sunak said: "Yeah, absolutely. My home is in North Yorkshire. That's what I represent.

"And people could see that I was the chancellor who moved part of the Treasury to Darlington."

Sunak will be in Manchester on Sunday 1 October for the Conservative Party conference.

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