Grant Shapps has officially confirmed that Rishi Sunak will make an announcement about HS2 during his speech to Conservative conference as fears build that the decision could trigger the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, to resign from the party.
Speaking during a broadcast interview Grant Shapps said listeners could be “pretty confident” of an announcement on the rail line today.
The Conservative mayor Andy Street, has not spoken publicly at length since it was reported last night that the northern leg of HS2 will effectively be scrapped by the PM in his conference speech.
But Street had told Rishi Sunak that he has a “very stark” choice in front of him over the future of HS2, warning that he would be throwing away a “once in a generation” opportunity to “level up” earlier this week at a press conference.
He vowed not to let the government scrap HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester “without a fight”.
Subsequently, Street, the former John Lewis boss, is reported to have urged the PM to strip the government-owned organisation HS2 Ltd of control over the multibillion-pound scheme and instead put a development corporation in charge.
The mayor is also reported to have cancelled a trip abroad in order to listen to Rishi Sunak’s speech today.
Sky News reports that allies of Street have said they would be “surprised but not shocked” if he resigns as a member of the Conservative Party as a result of the HS2 decision.
A spokesperson has also told the broadcaster: “We intend to listen to PM’s speech and respond accordingly.”
“I know it’s much anticipated and lots of people have said that there’ll be something with HS2 in it. I think we can be pretty confident that will be heard,” he told Times Radio.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, another key critic of the decision expected today, has said the latest plan to cut the Manchester to Birmingham leg of HS2 is “not a workable plan” and there is “huge frustration and growing anger in Greater Manchester”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s so frustrating. It just proves there’s still so many people in politics, many of them in the Tory party, that think they can treat the north of England differently to the way they treat other parts of the country it’s just so wrong.
“I’ve been in politics 30 years, I’ve never seen a party come to a conference and leave an axe hanging over the place they’re in for the whole week. And then actually drop it on that place.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to people in Greater Manchester to do this and the plan that they’re putting forward, that we’ve only seen briefed overnight because we haven’t even been told what it is, takes trains off HS2 at Birmingham and puts them on the existing tracks of the West Coast Mainline that just simply isn’t going to work.
“It’s not a workable plan and you know, you can understand why there is just huge frustration and indeed growing anger in Greater Manchester about this.”