Labour MPs join Andy Burnham’s criticism of Government commitment to northern HS2 leg

Several Labour MPs have joined Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and aired their frustrations as plans for the northern HS2 line are plunged further in doubt.

Last week Burnham said reports of the government’s wavering commitment to the northern part of HS2 “beggared belief”.

It comes after Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt met to discuss the project last when it was suggested that HS2 – which has become somewhat symbolic of the Government’s levelling up scheme – would go through some ‘rephasing’.

Burnham posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “It’s coming up ten years since Osbourne’s “Northern Powerhouse” speech and the Tories are set to scrap the last of his rail pledges. The result? The southern half gets a modern rail infrastructure and the north left with Victorian infrastructure. Levelling up? My a**e.”

He also suggested that northern passengers are seen by the Government as, “second-class citizens,” and accused them of attempting to make the North pay for their own deficiencies.

Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton said of the latest HS2 development: “Reducing the extent of HS2 is not only an insult to the north it makes the whole project less viable.

“The benefits of high speed rail increase the longer the routes. The north is being expected to pay for the government’s financial and economic incompetence at the same time they prioritise London.

“The country and the north will never solve its productivity problems if we don’t get the right transport infrastructure.”

Shadow Transport Secretary and MP for Sheffield Heeley Louise Haigh likewise deemed it a “humiliating Conservative failure”.

Labour has since declared its commitment to “delivering HS2 in full and maximising its economic benefits” should they be elected.

Since its inception, HS2 has been fraught with delays and concerns over costs, which have significantly risen over the original budget of £33bn. This was set over a decade ago when work on the project began.

Building of the structure was meant to commence in 2026. This has since been pushed back to 2029.

It is understood that the Prime Minister and chancellor have reviewed £30bn potential ‘savings’ which could be made by scrapping parts of the project during a meeting at No. 10 last Tuesday.

However, they failed to confirm whether these savings would be a result of scrapping the plans for the Manchester to Birmingham line.

Labour Shadow Minister Nick Thomas-Symonds echoed these comments.
He said: “We will build HS2 in full, and we will build Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, that’s the clear pledge we have given.”
However, Labour’s campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden refused to commit to building the HS2 rail line in full, due to ambiguity over costs.

He said: “I want to see what happens in the coming months, we want to see the railway being built but we’ve also […] got to look at the cost of everything we do.

“I want to see what this costs and we’ll make those decisions when it comes to the manifesto.”

Featured image courtesy of R~P~M via Flikr.

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