West Midlands Mayor Andy Street insists HS2 Manchester link is still possible
The elected mayor for the West Midlands has today insisted that HS2 could yet be extended to Manchester if private investors come on board.
Andy Street, who was rumoured to be on the brink of resigning as mayor over the Prime Minister's cancellation of the scheme last week, has offered to lead discussions to get the project back on track.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Conservative Party conference on Wednesday last week that the Government was cancelling the northern leg of the scheme, and would divert the funds allocated to other transport projects.
The announcement came amid rumours Mr Street was about to resign over the matter. Mr Street later quashed the speculation by saying he had never considered standing down, but admitted he had considered leaving the Conservative Party.
Mr Street said it was now 'back to the drawing board' for the northern leg of the scheme, but insisted he had not given up hope of it being revived.
"We must leave no stone unturned before giving up on high speed rail to Manchester... I will continue to work constructively to make it happen," wrote Mr Street on the Conservative Home website.
"The principle of a North-South high speed link is still worth pursuing," he wrote.
Mr Street said the Prime Minister threw the scheme a lifeline when he rejected rumoured proposals to shorten the southern leg of the scheme.
It had been reported that the Government was considering reducing the Midlands-London link so that it terminated at Birmingham in the north, and at Oak Common – six miles from central London – in the south. But Mr Sunak scotched these reports, saying it would run from Euston to Handsacre, near Rugeley, joining with the West Coast mainline which continues to Scotland via Manchester.
Mr Street said it was important to retain the link to central London to ensure it was of interest to investors.
Mr Street said the Prime Minister also made a further commitment – to 'hold the door open' to proposals to improve links between Birmingham and Manchester.
"This gives me hope that a high-speed link can still happen," he said.
"It won’t be easy. It may mean going back to the drawing board."
The day before the announcement, Mr Street had lobbied Mr Sunak telling him the private sector had expressed interest in investing in the scheme. He hoped these companies could now step in to get the line back on track.