Boris Johnson ‘WILL give HS2 the green light’ after Sajid Javid backed the £106billion line despite it being delayed and over budget
- Boris Johnson will hold a summit with the Chancellor and Transport Secretary
- Sajid Javid is attending the meeting tomorrow ‘with a view to supporting HS2’
- There is an ‘expectation’ that a decision will be made on HS2, a source has said
- But Downing Street insisted he will consult the Cabinet next week
Ministers are poised to give the green light to the controversial £106billion HS2 rail project after Chancellor Sajid Javid came off the fence to back it.
Boris Johnson will hold a crunch summit today with the Chancellor and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on the future of the troubled project, whose estimated costs have almost trebled.
Downing Street yesterday insisted the final decision on HS2 would not be made at today’s meeting, with the Prime Minister expected to consult the Cabinet next week.
Lined up: How the HS2 train will look. The final decision on the controversial £106billion rail project is to be made next week, after the Prime Minister has consulted the Cabinet, Downing Street insisted yesterday
But one Government source predicted that a decision in principle was likely to emerge.
The source said: ‘Look at the cast list – you have the PM, the Chancellor and the Transport Secretary. This is where the decision will be made. There may be some further process to go through before a decision is finalised, but the expectation is this is where it will happen.’ Last night it appeared that opinion was moving in favour of continuing with HS2 after it emerged the Chancellor, who had been sceptical of the soaring cost, has swung behind it.
Boris Johnson (pictured on December 13) is to hold a crunch summit on the on the future of the troubled HS2 project which has seen costs almost treble, on January 30. In the Commons, the Prime Minister said a decision on HS2 would be made ‘very shortly’
The Daily Mail understands that Mr Javid will attend today’s meeting ‘with a view to supporting HS2’. He has spent weeks studying the costs alongside potential alternatives and concluded that HS2 remains the best way to spark the ‘infrastructure revolution’ the Government wants to launch.
Mr Javid is said to have returned to first principles and, while accepting that ‘no project should go ahead at any cost’, he believes the alternatives ‘were either unworkable or did not produce the same benefits’.
A highly critical report from the National Audit Office last week warned it was impossible to say how much the scheme would finally cost
However, sources stressed that all options were still possible. The Cabinet is deeply split on the issue. Mr Johnson yesterday told MPs the Government was still ‘looking into whether and how to proceed with HS2’. His chief adviser Dominic Cummings is among ‘many’ in No 10 said to be opposed to the project.
In the Commons, the Prime Minister said a decision on HS2 would be made ‘very shortly’.
Mr Javid (pictured on January 28) is said to be attending today’s meeting ‘with a view to supporting HS2’. He has spent weeks studying the costs alongside potential alternatives and concluded that HS2 remains the best way to spark the ‘infrastructure revolution’
Ministers are reported to have considered scrapping the second part of the scheme, which runs from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, or using conventional rail, rather than high-speed, to reduce the cost.
But a senior Tory source said it was ‘politically untenable’ for Mr Johnson to go ahead with phase one – from London to Birmingham – while cutting back the second phase to the North.
The HS2 route would initially link London and Birmingham with the second phase of the project then heading north to Manchester and Leeds
The insider said: ‘The idea that a Prime Minister who has been elected on a mandate to boost infrastructure in the North is going to just scrap the northern part of a big infrastructure project is a non-starter. It’s just politically untenable.’
Meanwhile Mr Johnson and Mr Javid were last night reported to have demanded all Cabinet ministers draw up cuts of 5 per cent to their departments despite promising an end to austerity.
Ministers have been told to do a line-by-line audit and identify ten projects that can be stopped altogether. Even ‘protected’ departments such health and defence are not exempt.
Insiders said the Government wants to overhaul or abolish projects and quangos rather squeeze salaries or cut welfare.