Scrapping HS2 would help balance the books, admits Jeremy Hunt in visit to West Midlands

Jeremy Hunt conceded he could have "balanced the books" by ditching HS2 during a visit to the controversial line's interchange station in the West Midlands.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, HS2 CEO Mark Thurston and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street at the HS2 Interchange site
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, HS2 CEO Mark Thurston and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street at the HS2 Interchange site

The Chancellor has committed to building the budget-busting route to Manchester despite forecasts its cost was on course to balloon to more than £150billion.

He joined West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and HS2 Ltd boss Mark Thurston to examine the progress of the £370million interchange station in Solihull.

It came after Mr Hunt was urged to scrap HS2 by Tory MPs, with the likes of Michael Fabricant and Sir Bill Cash leading calls to cease all building work immediately.

Mr Hunt, who chatted with site engineers and apprentices during his visit, said: "We could have balanced the books with big cuts to capital projects, but better transport connections spread wealth and opportunity – so we are proud to back HS2."

Mr Thurston claimed HS2 was "delivering for the Government’s levelling-up agenda."

He added: "With almost 30,000 jobs supported by the project, and tens of thousands more throughout our UK-wide supply chain, we are delighted the Chancellor recognises the important part HS2 is playing in driving growth across the country today, and will do in the future."

HS2, which ploughs through 45 miles of Staffordshire countryside, has been criticised for years over its spiralling budget, lengthy delays and the damage it has cause to the environment.

Mr Fabricant said it was "a national disgrace" to proceed with HS2 when tax rises and spending cuts had been brought in by the Chancellor in his latest Budget.

He said: "I, and others, continue to press the Government to consider using these vast sums of money to support the NHS, education, and other services which our nation so needs instead of this failing project."

Lord Berkeley, deputy chair of the Oakervee Review which slammed HS2, called for it to be “put into administration” after forecasting its budget would hit £155bn.

He said it should be replaced with an east-west rail route.

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News