Conservative mayor Andy Street warns Boris Johnson not to axe HS2 project
The Tory mayor of the West Midlands has warned Boris Johnson that axeing the HS2 project would set back the region's revival "by decades”.
Andy Street's comments came after the Prime Minister warned Cabinet that some projects could be binned in an attempt to “root out waste” before the 11 March budget.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, said that that the HS2 rail line was “a once in a generation game-changing investment” for his area.
He added: “The Prime Minister and the Government talk about levelling, getting the Midlands, and indeed the north, to the sort of standards of wealth enjoyed in London.
“I see this [HS2] as an absolutely critical way of achieving that.”
Mr Street, who also sits on the Government-commissioned HS2 review panel, dismissed claims by its former deputy chair that MPs had been “misled” over the project’s costs.
Lord Berkeley, who asked to have his name removed from the review in November, published his own report on Sunday claiming that HS2 spending was “out of control”.
He predicted that the high speed rail line could now cost over £108bn, almost double the £55bn figure pitched to Parliament in 2015.
His claims were dismissed by Mr Street, who said the line was now expected to cost £85bn.
But, the West Midlands Mayor warned Boris Johnson that further delays could push up costs.
He said: “We have to be confident that HS2 Ltd can deliver it for the said sum, but critically we need a clean, crisp decision from Government. Delay will actually just add to this bill.”
And, he warned the Prime Minister that new Tory voters in the region were “looking to see if this Conservative government can deliver for them”, and that keeping HS2 would hit a “real political sweet spot”.
At Cabinet on Tuesday, Mr Johnson told his ministers that they should not be afraid to "slaughter sacred cows" in order to free up extra cash.
Cabinet held a discussion on the economy and upcoming fiscal events, the Prime Minister said the Budget will focus on delivering the priorities set out in the manifesto this is as new Government with a new mandate including to level-up across the country, invest in infrastructure and tackle climate change.
His spokesman said: “The PM said there is a massive opportunity to unleash potential in every corner of the United Kingdom.
“The Chancellor and the PM said the Budget is also the time to take tough decisions in order to prepare the economy for the next decade.
“They said ministers need to root out any waste, particularly anything that is not aligned with the Government priorities, and demonstrate value for money of every pound of taxpayers’ money that we spend.”