LONDON, UK: The UK government said over the weekend that it could downscale the scope of the High Speed 2 (HS2) project, an overdue and over-budget high-speed rail line initially planned to extend to northern England.
British media reported that the Conservative government will announce this week that the line would end in the middle of England in Birmingham, 100 miles from London, instead of Manchester in the northeast.
Cabinet minister Grant Shapps, former transportation secretary, now defense minister, said it was "proper and responsible" to reconsider a project whose costs have risen due to high inflation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
"We have seen very, very high global inflation in a way that no government could have predicted. It would be irresponsible to simply spend money, carry on as if nothing had changed," he said.
The project's projected cost was estimated at US$40 billion in 2011 but has risen to more than $122 billion.
HS2 is the second high-speed rail line in the UK after HS1, which links London and the Channel Tunnel connecting England and France.
The Birmingham-to-Leeds leg of HS2 was canceled by the UK government in 2021, but it maintained plans to construct the 160 miles between London and Manchester.
Former Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who championed HS2, said cutting back the project even further "makes no sense at all."
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, a member of the opposition Labour Party, said people in northern England were "always treated as second-class citizens when it comes to transport."
In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said, "The government's approach to HS2 risks squandering the huge economic opportunity that it presents and turning it instead into a colossal waste of public money."