The HS2 rail line won a huge boost today as it emerged the Chancellor is set to back it – despite costs of £100bn.
A string of Tory MPs have spoken out against the line from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester amid warnings its cost could spiral from £56bn to £106bn.
But Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said his “gut feeling” was it should go ahead. And the Mirror now understands Chancellor Sajid Javid will come out in favour of the project.
A source confirmed that, after reviewing the costs and alternatives, the Chancellor is broadly supportive of HS2.
The source stressed a final decision was yet to be taken, but another source close to Boris Johnson indicated it will go ahead. They told The Times: “We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, there are significant issues with the cost but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t go ahead.”
It comes a day after it emerged Network Rail’s chief warned scrapping HS2 would lead to 30 years of delays.
The costs have caused a split in the Conservative Party, some of whose MPs have seats along the line while others want the money spent elsewhere.
Tory MP for Chesham and Amersham Cheryl Gillan warned the government could be “conned” into giving HS2 the green light without knowing about the full risk to taxpayers.
Yet sources close to HS2 have told the Observer the line could now cost £12bn to cancel – £9bn that has already been spent plus £3bn in cancelling preparation work.
And Tory West Midlands mayor Andy Street warned it was “Narnia-land” to believe the plan could be scrapped without huge cost.
Boris Johnson commissioned a review of the project last year by independent expert Doug Oakervee.
His leaked draft findings recommended a six-month “pause”, giving officials time to see if the line could be built with a mix of conventional and high-speed track to cut costs.
But the leaked review said that “on balance”, the line should go ahead.
Whitehall’s spending watchdog said this month that HS2 is over budget and behind schedule because its complexity and risks were under-estimated.
The National Audit Office (NAO) warned that it is impossible to “estimate with certainty what the final cost could be”.
Phase One between London and Birmingham was due to open in 2026, but full services are now forecast to start between 2031 and 2036.