Andy Burnham Says Ministers Are Treating People In The North 'Like Second Class Citizens'

Andy Burnham made clear his anger on Sky News
Andy Burnham made clear his anger on Sky News

Andy Burnham made clear his anger on Sky News

Andy Burnham has accused ministers of treating people in the north of England “like second class citizens” amid mounting speculation that the next phase of HS2 will be scrapped.

The Manchester mayor launched a furious attack on the government as Rishi Sunak ponders whether to axe the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the rail project.

His comments came after former transport secretary Grant Shapps repeatedly refused to confirm that the high-speed line will be completed in full.

Speaking on Sky News, Burnham furiously said: “Why is it that people in the north are always forced to choose - you can have this or you can have that, but you can’t have everything?

“London never has to choose between a north-south line or an east-west line and good public transport within the city.

“Why are we always treated as second-class citizens when it comes to transport?

“This is the parliament who said they would level us up. If they leave a situation where the southern half of the country is connected by modern high speed lines and the north of England is left with Victorian infrastructure, that is a recipe for the north-south divide to become a north-south chasm.”

Burnham said the abandonment of the HS2 leg would be the “desperate act of a dying government”.

Around £20 billion of taxpayers money has already been spent on the project, which was meant to cost £33 billion in total.

However, repeated delays and soaring inflation mean there are fears the final bill could be more than £100 billion.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has warned that the cost of the project is at risk of getting “totally out of control”, fuelling speculation that plans to extend it to Manchester will be scrapped.

However, Boris Johnson has said that would leave a “mutilated” rail line and has urged the government to commit to the project.

Andy Street, the Tory mayor of the West Midlands, has also called on Sunak to complete the project, while business leaders have insisted scrapping it would be disastrous for the economy.