Regarding HS2, Rishi Sunak refuses to make a “premature decision.”

PM declines to reveal if Manchester to Birmingham line will be scrapped amid speculation over soaring costs

Rishi Sunak has insisted he is not going to be forced into a “premature decision” over the fate of the HS2 high-speed rail line as speculation about the multibillion pound project continued to overshadow the Conservative conference.

“I am not going to be forced into a premature decision because it is good for someone’s TV programme,” the prime minister told BBC Breakfast.

“What I want to do is make the right decision for the country. This is an enormous amount of people’s money, taxpayers’ money, everybody watching, billions and billions of pounds.

“We shouldn’t be rushed into things like that. What people would expect from me is to take the time to go over it properly and make sure we make the right long-term decisions for the country.”

Sunak has become embroiled in a row with regional politicians, the transport industry and members of his party as he prepares to announce the cancellation of the line between Birmingham and Manchester.

He is due to call an emergency cabinet meeting on Tuesday at the conference, where ministers are expected to give their approval to the biggest infrastructure climbdown in a generation.

“If anyone thinks that ending the line at Old Oak Common is going to be strategic infrastructure, that is a waste of money. You might as well scrap the whole lot,” Reynolds told the BBC’s Today programme.

Reynolds said he was in Manchester to make the case for HS2, over which there was “a lot of rhetoric”. He said he had spoken to the prime minister, who “dodged the question and moved on very quickly”.

There was lacerating criticism of Sunak by Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), an organisation representing business and civic leaders across the north of England, who said he “didn’t know what the prime minister is playing at”.

Murison said there was increasing concern about the future of the “northern powerhouse” transport infrastructure plans, which were also linked to the HS2 legislation.

“Will he be cancelling that too, all for his pothole funds?” he told Sky News, referring to previous comments by Sunak that members of the public were more eager to see potholes filled.

“It feels like this is a PM who says one thing and does the other,” he added. “It also feels like he is trying to trash Boris Johnson’s legacy, HS2, and trash the net zero agenda.”

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