Theresa May joins Boris and Cameron in urging Rishi Sunak not to scrap HS2

Keir Starmer pushing for HS2 to be scrapped in 2015

Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure not to scrap the northern leg of the HS2 rail network, as Tory infighting over the issue threatens to derail the party conference.

Theresa May became the latest senior Conservative figure to urge the PM not to scale back the high-speed rail.

It is thought that Mr Sunak has been “alarmed” by the escalating cost of the HS2 project, with suggestions that it could eventually exceed £100bn.

This has prompted the current No 10 occupant to consider scrapping the Birmingham to Manchester leg.

Speaking at the Henley Literary Festival, Ms May hit back at these suggestions, saying that the HS2 should not be scrapped.

She said: “We have to think about why HS2 was designed in the first place.

“It was because there was a lack of capacity on the West Coast Main Line.

“So if there is a lack of capacity on the West Coast Main Line, we need more railway capacity to serve the North West.”

She also confirmed that she had personally lobbied ministers not to abandon the project.

There are suggestions that a cost-cutting exercise could see the rail line end at Old Oak Common in the capital’s western suburbs, instead of London Euston.

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Ms May follows other former prime ministers, including Boris Johnson and David Cameron, in criticisng the speculated plans.

Mr Cameron is understood to have raised his concerns with Downing Street in private.

On Saturday, Mr Johnson wrote in his Daily Mail column that the Tory Government would be “betraying the north of the country and the whole agenda of levelling up” if HS2 to Manchester is cut.

Speculation over the future of HS2 hangs over the Conservative Party conference, which starts tomorrow in Manchester.

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During an awkward BBC interview this morning, Transport Secretary Mark Harper repeatedly dodged questions on whether HS2 could axed, saying simply that he would not comment on “speculation”.

Rishi Sunak similarly refused to answer questions on HS2 this week in a series of BBC regional interviews.

When asked about HS2, the prime minister repeatedly shifted the focus to local bus links and improving roads by fixing potholes.

He said the Government was ensuring “we get value for money”.

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