Lord Hammond, who also served as Transport Secretary, said “exhaustive” studies by the Department for Transport had concluded it made no sense to axe the northern leg of HS2 to Manchester, or to scrap plans to run trains to Euston.
He said: “I don’t think a decision has been made yet and I would urge the Prime Minister not to scrap either the Euston terminus or the link from Birmingham to Manchester.”
It makes him the latest Conservative big-hitter to put pressure on Mr Sunak after former Tory Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and David Cameron hit out at suggestions HS2 trains heading north could stop at Birmingham, and run no further than Old Oak Common in west London.
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Speaking to the Sunday Express, Lord Hammond said: “I was Transport Secretary at the time that the project was confirmed by David Cameron’s Government. We did a lot of work studying the options and whether we could de-scope the project in order to reduce costs, and all the conclusions were that it had to go to Manchester and it had to go into Euston.
“Anything else was a false economy that would leave us with a white elephant, and I don’t see anything that has changed since that study.
“The project was always about capacity. We needed more rail capacity from Manchester to London, and stopping it at Birmingham doesn’t address that problem at all. You save a bit of costs but you destroy many of the benefits of the project.
“At the other end, we did model the possibility of stopping it at Old Oak Common and it just doesn’t work.”
He said HS2 passengers would be forced to switch to local rail service the Elizabeth Line in order to complete the journey into central London, which would be “overwhelmed”.
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London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also joined calls for the line to be built in full, saying that scaling it back “risks squandering the huge economic opportunity that it presents and turning it instead into a colossal waste of public money”.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, he warned that failing to build the link to Euston would mean journeys between central London and Birmingham on the “high speed” line were no faster than existing services.
A budget of £55.7 billion for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015 but some reports suggest the bill is now set to exceed £100 billion.
Downing Street and the Treasury have not denied reports they are considering axing elements of the project, and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned last week that costs are “getting totally out of control”
It prompted a fight-back from supporters of the project, with Mr Johnson insisting: “This is total Treasury-driven nonsense. It makes no sense at all to deliver a mutilated HS2.”
Sources close to Mr Cameron told the Times he had privately raised concerns about scaling back HS2, the biggest infrastructure project of his premiership.
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