Government ministers are “keen to kill off” HS2 over growing budget fears, a new documentary has claimed.
Channel 4’s dispatches programme heard from a government source who said there was growing concern over the budget, which it predicted could reach £100bn.
But the government has said the claims are “complete nonsense” and the scheme would be built to Manchester and Leeds.
Work on the first phase of the multi-billion pound project – which will take the line between London and Birmingham – has already started.
But the law required for Phase 2b – which forms the top parts of a Y shape and will stop at Toton – was delayed last year.
Earlier this month, amid growing speculation about the train line’s future, business leaders and politicians re-iterated their support for the programme, and said it was crucial for re-balancing the economy of the country.
The scheme has also been publicly supported by Chris Grayling and Theresa May.
The right-hand leg of the Y shape is planned to pass through Radcliffe-on-Soar, Long Eaton and Stapleford, with a new station at Toton sidings, before heading to Sheffield and Leeds.
But the documentary heard from a ‘senior cabinet source’ who said despite the government publicly budgeting £4bn a year for the next decade, ministers have secretly allocated £6bn a year.
This would be the same amount currently spent on maintaining and upgrading the entire train network every year.
But yesterday, rail minister Andrew Jones re-affirmed the government’s commitment to the line.
He said: “Already there are 7,000 jobs supported by the programme; already over 2,000 businesses have HS2 contracts; and already the diggers are on the ground in Birmingham.
Building has started.
“In case you have seen any recent newspaper stories claiming that the northern stages of HS2 might not be built – they are complete nonsense.
“HS2 was conceived, developed and is now being delivered as a national railway – but in particular to improve links for the north and Midlands.
“So our commitment to HS2, the full network to Manchester and Leeds, remains undiminished. As the Secretary of State said recently, to do otherwise would be a betrayal of the north.
“As part of the same conference, Transport for the North also stressed the importance of HS2 to the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail.”
Joe Rukin, campaign manager of Stop HS2, which is campaigning for the scheme to be scrapped altogether, said: “Currently, there are commuters in constant crush-hour conditions across the rail network, but instead of addressing those problems, out of touch politicians are promising to deliver HS2 for the business elite.
“Promising HS2 at this time is like building a Waitrose on rails that is of no use to the vast majority of commuters who are stood queuing in Aldi, all with the forlorn hope that someone will open another till.
“While about £4 to £5bn has been wasted so far on HS2 over ten years, we are now at the sharp end, and government will soon have to decide whether or not to commit to spending around that amount every year for about 20 years on building HS2.
“That is a decision to give HS2 pretty much the entire rail infrastructure budget and accept that nothing else besides maintenance could be afforded for two decades, condemning commuters elsewhere to a cycle of continual crush-hour conditions.”
Kit Sandeman , Local Democracy Reporting Service