Labour in chaos over its plans for HS2 as shadow minister contradicts colleagues who committed to completing the project in full
- Tulip Siddiq contradicted what her colleagues said just hours before about HS2
Labour was in chaos over HS2 today after its policy on the future of the high-speed rail project changed four times within days.
Tulip Siddiq became the latest shadow minister to contradict what her colleagues had said just hours previously by refusing to commit to delivering the project in full.
Farcically, she even suggested that one of her colleagues who did commit to it in full potentially ‘knows something I don’t know’.
The fiasco started on Friday when in a blueprint for the party’s next manifesto it committed to building HS2 in full.
On Sunday, however, Labour’s election campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden said the party would not commit to the project until it knew the full extent of the cost overruns.
Yesterday this changed again, when shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds and transport spokesman Louise Haigh pledged that the party would build HS2 in ‘in full’.
But today Ms Siddiq poured cold water on this position.
Asked whether Labour would build HS2 ‘in full’ as Mr Thomas-Symonds had pledged, she said: ‘I wouldn’t be a very responsible shadow Treasury minister if I didn’t look at the final costs and if I didn’t make sure that the taxpayer was getting that value for money.’
Pressed on why Mr Thomas-Symonds had promised to build it in full, she added: ‘Well, maybe he knows something I don’t know, but I want to see the full costs of how much is actually going to be the ultimate figure.
‘I need to see what the cost is going to be, because it’s not just about the cost, it’s also about the practicalities. If there’s a genuine reason why some parts of HS2 are now being abandoned, we want to know that.
‘And there might be lots of revised costs as well. I just wouldn’t be very responsible if I said at this point that we want to commit to everything without knowing the full facts.’ Building HS2 in full would mean not only connecting London with Birmingham and Manchester, but also linking Birmingham with Leeds via an ‘eastern leg’.
This was scrapped by the Government in 2021 to save money amid concerns that completing it would send the overall bill well above £100billion.
However, there are question marks over whether high-speed trains will run into Manchester.
Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have been in discussions about scrapping the Birmingham to Manchester leg in a bid to save up to £34billion.
The proposals have been given a special codename, Project Redwood, the Independent reported. However, the website also reported that senior ministers had become ‘spooked’ to the reaction to the proposals, with the Government being accused of ‘abandoning’ the North.
Ending the line into London early has also been under consideration.
Instead of terminating at London Euston, trains could stop at Old Oak Common, six miles away.
It would mean passengers having to alight at the west London station and connect to the new Elizabeth Line, also known as Crossrail, to take them into central London.
Government sources said no final decisions had been made.
A budget of £55.7billion for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015. But the target cost has ballooned to up to £71 billion, excluding the eastern leg axed in 2021. This was axed amid fears the final cost would soar well above £100billion.
Delays also mean high-speed trains won’t reach Manchester until at least 2040 even if the connection with Birmingham is pressed ahead with.
Labour was contacted for comment.
The Treasury directed the Independent to Mr Hunt’s comments last week, in which he said: ‘You would expect the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to be having discussions as to how to manage those cost overruns.’