Unconfirmed reports that the Manchester branch of HS2 will follow the Leeds branch into the bin – or at least the very long grass – have been met with scorn by companies paid lots of money to build it, the civil engineering contractors.
Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “In recent years, the government has taken successive chunks out of its proposed plans for HS2. We are now at the point where very little of the northern elements that were originally put forward are now looking set to go ahead.
“Cancellation of such a nationally-significant project will level down rather than level up, massively undermining the ability of the UK economy as a whole to grow, and threaten delivery of net zero by 2050.
“In simple terms, a decision to axe the northern sections of HS2 would mean that we are unlikely to see high speed rail in the north anytime in the first half of this century.
“No British government has made such a short-sighted and self-harming decision since Harold Wilson’s administration stopped work on the Channel Tunnel in the mid-1970s.
“Cancelling the second leg of HS2 would not only make the UK an international laughing stock: it will actively undermine the life-chances of generations of Britons, harm our ability to fight climate change, and destroy trust in politics to deliver on a better future for us all.”
The High Speed Rail Group, a coalition of vested interests, is also mightily concerned. A spokesperson said: “Once again the 30,000 men and women who are working every day to deliver HS2 will return home to find further speculation about whether they will be allowed to complete the job they have started.
“Were phase 2 to be cancelled it would be a disaster for the North and the Midlands. After 13 years during which the Government has promoted the project, it would also be the ultimate U-turn.
“The government needs to kill the speculation and make its intentions clear, and it ought to commit clearly and unambiguously to delivering the project as planned. The 30,000 people delivering HS2 deserve this. Our future generations deserve this. The North and Midlands deserve this.”