A Government minister has insisted the HS2 railway line “is being built” following reports that Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are in talks about scrapping the project’s second stage.
Chris Philp told Sky News on Friday: “We’re working on building HS2 at the moment. There are spades in the ground, there’s track being laid, tunnels are being tunnelled underneath various bits of the track on the route, that work is under way.
“The Government does from time to time consider the phasing of projects. But that’s just a general comment, I don’t know anything about the specifics of this. I’m a Home Office minister.
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“So, I’m afraid I don’t know about exactly what is or is not being considered. But I do know that work is ongoing as we speak to construct the line.” Pressed again on whether the line will run to Manchester, Philp said: “I can tell you that work on the line is ongoing at the moment, it is being built. And, you know, those trains are going to go very fast, you know, from London going north as soon as the line is finished.”
Philp’s comments comes after The Independent published a photograph of a leaked document appearing to show the Government has already spent £2.3 billion on stage two of the railway from Birmingham to Manchester, but that up to £35 billion could be saved by abandoning the phase.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said “spades are already in the ground on our HS2 programme and we’re focused on delivering it” but would not promise the line will run to Manchester.
“I can’t comment on speculation around a leaked document. It is obviously standard process for departments to discuss the phasing of major projects like HS2… but the work is already under way,” he said.
Asked if the Prime Minister is committed to the line going to Manchester, the spokesman said: “We are committed to HS2, to the project. I can’t comment on the speculation that’s a result of a photograph. We are as you know looking at the rephasing of the work in the best interests of passengers and taxpayers.”
The Independent reported that the Prime Minister and Chancellor are in ongoing talks about how best to move forward with the project. The planned railway is intended to link London, the Midlands and the North of England but has been plagued by delays and soaring costs.