Labor not guilty of ‘high rail treason’ over HS2, insists Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has insisted he is not guilty of the “high rail treason” Labor has accused the government of for failing to commit to fully building HS2.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said the cost of the high-speed rail project to the North is “completely out of control” as Rishi Sunak refuses to guarantee it will reach Manchester.

Labour's commitment to building HS2, including the scrapped Leeds leg, is wavering now that the Prime Minister's position appears to be on the move.

Sir Keir, the Labor leader, insists he still backs the project and blames the government for introducing “uncertainty” over its future as ministers consider the move to save billions.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said the Tories would be guilty of a “high rail betrayal” if the project did not link the north to central London.

But Sir Keir deflected when asked during a visit to the London Stock Exchange if he was guilty of the same “betrayal” by not fully committing to HS2 if he reaches No 10.

“Look, the questions here are about the government,” he told the PA news agency on Friday.

“They committed to HS2 but now they have introduced uncertainty.

“And not only in this area, they have introduced uncertainty when it comes to net zero, introducing uncertainty when it comes to our schools.

“What we want in a new Labor government is consistency, certainty and long-term strategic decision-making, and that's what we're going to get.”

Labor sources have made it clear they do not want to go further than ministers have promised to complete the project, because they may then have to find additional funding.

Sir Keir accuses the Conservatives of “cut and change” for undermining Mr Sunak's net zero policies as well as schools and infrastructure.

But Labour's position on HS2 has not been entirely clear in recent weeks.

Labour's National Policy Forum's draft of possible policies to be put to voters committed to “fully delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail and High Speed ​​​​2”.

But Labour's campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden said on Sunday he needed to see the price before committing to the full initial route as “there may be revised spending”.

Senior shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds later promised the party would build the line “in its entirety”, including Leeds.

However, shadow finance minister Tulip Siddiq cast further doubt on the pledge, arguing it would be irresponsible to commit without the final cost.

The eastern leg to Leeds was scrapped by the government in 2021.

And it was confirmed in March that construction between Birmingham and Crewe would be delayed by two years and that services may not cross Old Oak Common in central London until the 2040s.