Ed Balls hints at scrapping HS2 over high costs

Ed Balls. Picture: PA
Ed Balls. Picture: PA
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THE controversial scheme to cut train journey times between London and Scotland could be pulled by Labour because of spiralling costs, shadow chancellor Ed Balls has warned.

In his speech to the Labour conference, he appeared to signal a significant weakening in Labour support for HS2, suggesting the potential £50 billion price-tag might be better spent elsewhere.

Repeating his line that, as chancellor, he would not offer a “blank cheque” to HS2, he added: “The question is not just whether a new high-speed line is a good idea or a bad idea, but whether it is the best way to spend £50bn.”

The announcement was met with anger by business groups, who warned cancellation of the project, which is due to run to Manchester by 2030 and then on to Edinburgh and Glasgow by 2050, would damage the economy. CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said: “The government must redouble its efforts to sell the benefits of HS2.”

A Labour source later denied the party was giving up on HS2, but said costs must be kept in check.