Liverpool City Region's Steve Rotheram claims PM is creating the 'Northern Powerless' over HS2

  • Labour's Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram speaks at the Conservative Party conference

Scrapping HS2 will condemn millions across the Liverpool City Region and the wider north to “creaking infrastructure for generations", its Mayor has claimed.As the Conservative Party continues its conference in Manchester, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has repeatedly refused to confirm the future of the high-speed rail project’s link to Manchester.

This has increased fears around the knock-on effect to the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme speeding up links between Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.

Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, has hit out at the proposed culling of the northern section of the major infrastructure scheme, claiming it will leave the north "powerless".He said: “After weeks of speculation we are no nearer to understanding what the Prime Minister’s plans for rail infrastructure in the north look like.

"Far from building the Northern Powerhouse, he’s turning us into the Northern Powerless.“It’s clear from the weeks of government briefings that it is a case of when, not if, Rishi Sunak breaks the Conservatives’ promises on HS2 – without any consultation or a single conversation with the people it affects. What message does this send?“That people in the North are worth less than people in the South? That the UK is not a serious place to invest or do business?

"That the Tories simply do not care about Victorian infrastructure holding back opportunities for economic growth across the north from Liverpool to Hull?”

Mr Sunak refused to confirm that he will pull the plug on the route despite widespread reports for the past few days.

It is thought the announcement could be made during the prime minister’s keynote speech on Wednesday, 4 October.

The HS2 project is feared to have spiralled past £100 billion. Credit: PA

Mr Rotheram, who wrote to Mr Sunak condemning the move, said: “Despite its conference logo this government is intent on facing towards the past rather than embracing the future.

"Why is the north being forced to choose? It shouldn’t be an either or, and the reality is that without both, the North will continue to be held back.“We are being offered a false choice between HS2 and NPR and phony promises of jam tomorrow.

"A pretend option between either investment in national infrastructure, or unspecified funding into local transport.“Without the Manchester leg of HS2 there is no Northern Powerhouse Rail. The Prime Minister’s choice this week will condemn millions of people across the North to contend with creaking infrastructure for generations.”

Cheshire West and Chester Council has also warned it could end up more than £130k out of pocket if the government pulls the plug on HS2.

The Crewe-Manchester section was due to run through the eastern part of Cheshire West and Chester, from Walley’s Green passing Middlewich, then past Winsford to Lostock Gralam before continuing on towards Agden and Hulseheath.

And so far the council said it had incurred costs of £135,267, money which it said can not be recovered.

The leader of the council, Louise Gittins, signed a letter alongside the leaders of Cheshire East and Warrington councils claiming the three areas could lose a combined £2bn a year and 27,000 jobs if the leg was scrapped.

Cllr Gittins told the LDRS: “I wrote to the Prime Minister last week along with the leaders of Cheshire East Council, Warrington Council and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership.

“We have expressed our joint concerns over the rumours of the cancellation of HS2 north of Birmingham and Northern Powerhouse Rail. We have yet to hear back from Number 10 about this future vital transport investment in the North West.”

Speculation around the scrapping of the northern leg has centred around rising costs.

In a joint statement, the leader and deputy leader of neighbouring Cheshire East Council, councillors Sam Corcoran and Craig Browne, said:

“The lack of communication from Government with local stakeholders is not acceptable, and the continued speculation has ramifications for Cheshire East and its plans, the wider region, and our communities.

“We remain clear in our position that delivering Phase 2a and 2b of HS2 in full, as planned, is critical to unlocking the North’s full economic potential and ensuring that the serious capacity issues across the northern rail network are addressed.”

Cheshire Conservative MP for Tatton Esther McVey, a long-standing critic of the project, recently welcomed the rumours, claiming that HS2 was ‘sucking the life out of our local transport’ in the north of England.

Meanwhile Greater Manchester's Mayor Andy Burnham and Manchester council leader Bev Craig are staging a protest in Manchester on the eve of the Prime Minister's speech.

They have repeatedly askes Rishi Sunak to meet with Northern leaders to discuss a way forward.

They have urged the government not to 'kill the HS2 bill' which is currently going through Parliament so Labour can complete the Birmingham to Manchester line if it wins the next election.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove described HS2 as an "important project" but he said "we do need to look at value for money".

"The costs of this project have been significantly greater than originally estimated."

He also stressed that transport links in the North need to be improved between and within cities, as critics say axing the full HS2 project would jeopardise the levelling up project.

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