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Business is ready to help pay for HS2, Tory mayor Andy Street says

Business and regional leaders launched a scathing attack on Rishi Sunak’s plans to scrap HS2 north of Birmingham warning he would be ending a “once in a lifetime opportunity to level up”.

Conservative West Midlands Mayor Andy Street urged the Prime Minister not to cancel the high speed line to Manchester as he suggested several major businesses could be brought in to invest in the scheme.

During an impromptu press conference in Manchester, Mr Street made an impassioned plea directly to Mr Sunak, stating: “You will be turning your back on an opportunity to level up – a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

“You will indeed be damaging your international reputation as a place to invest.”

Earlier on at the Tory conference, Mr Street criticised the Government’s handling of the project, which is the biggest infrastructure scheme in Europe.

Speaking at a fringe event, he said: “If you tell the international investment community you are going to do something, you had bloody well better stick to your word.”

Mr Street suggested major blue chip corporations, such as Arap, Mace, Siemens would be willing to enter into a public private investment model to help deliver the scheme, which is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, he added: “I won’t let HS2 go without a fight. The offer to the PM is there – work with me and the private sector, grip the costs, and build Britain’s future.”

On Friday former Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested private finance could be used to help pay for the project.

Henri Murison, chief executive of business group the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said he was “sick of being lied to” by the Government when it came to HS2 and the knock on effects it would have on delivering NPR.

“Why on earth would the Government not be more honest about the fact that if you cut HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester, you’d have to put £15bn back in the NPR budget to avoid cancelling NPR as well?” he told a fringe meeting.

“I think what I’d ask from the minister is a bit of honesty. When he talks about the priorities of HS2, does that mean that NPR will be lost as well?”

His comments came before Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that axing the northern leg of HS2 would be the “desperate act of a dying government”.

“At the very least they should preserve the decision for the next government so they can deliver what the north of England has been promised,” he said.

And in a message to the Government, the Greater Manchester Mayor said: “Don’t in any way go away from Manchester and underestimate the anger that is building around in this city and the towns around it, and across the north, about the way the north of England is being treated.

“We will not accept it any more.”

Mr Sunak is reportedly ready to announce the cancellation of the link to Manchester after days of speculation due to spiralling costs.

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