Rishi Sunak refused to comment on speculation about HS2.
The prime minister repeatedly refused this morning to confirm that the rail project will continue from Birmingham to Manchester amid mounting speculation that the government is planning to axe it.
Asked directly whether the next phase would go ahead, Sunak said: “I’m not going to comment on that speculation.”
The PM was then asked a second time and said: “This kind of speculation that people are making is not right. We’ve got spades in the ground, we’re getting on and delivering.
“But across the north what we’re also doing is connecting up all the towns and cities in the north, east to west, that’s a really important part of how we will create jobs, drive growth across the region - all part of our plan to level up.”
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has warned that costs for HS2 are “out of control”, while cabinet minister Grant Shapps yesterday refused to say whether the Birmingham to Manchester leg will be carried out.
Former chancellor George Osborne today became the latest senior Tory to say the project mist be completed.
In a joint-article in The Times with Conservative grandee Lord Heseltine, he said it would be a “gross act of vandalism” to stop the line at Birmingham.
“Governments are remembered for what they build and create,” they said. “Make this mistake, and yours may only be known for what it cancelled and curtailed.”
Former prime minister Boris Johnson has said it makes “no sense at all to deliver a mutilated HS2”, while another ex-PM, David Cameron, is also urging No.10 to complete the project.
Andy Street, the Tory mayor of the West Midlands, has also called for the line to continue north of Birmingham, saying failure to do so would “be a disaster for the country”.