Reports overnight say that construction of the HS2 station at London Euston, with its 7km link from Old Oak Common, will only go ahead if private investment can be found.
The Prime Minister said on Wednesday that although he was scrapping Phases 2A and 2B from north of Birmingham to Crewe and Manchester, the connection with Euston was back on the agenda.
The proposed station will now have only six platforms rather than the 11 which were originally envisaged when HS2 was to serve the East Midlands, South Yorkshire, Leeds and Manchester as well as Birmingham.
Mr Sunak also said he was taking the revived Euston project away from HS2 Ltd, and creating a Euston Development Zone company to manage the work. Construction at Euston was paused earlier this year because the budget of £2.6 billion had increased to £4.8 billion.
The Department for Transport has not commented on the claims of private sector involvement, beyond saying in the Network North Command Paper that funding of Euston should be ‘underpinned by contributions from those people and businesses its development supports’.
Concern has also been growing about the the government’s intention to release safeguarded land on the route between Lichfield and Manchester, which would make restarting the scheme very difficult.
The DfT has stopped buying land for Phase 2A between Lichfield and Crewe, and will start selling properties which it had already acquired at a cost of £423 million.
If another government wanted to restart the high speed scheme north of Birmingham, it would have to apply for a new Transport & Works Act order, authorising a second round of compulsory purchases. These can involve protracted negotiations with property owners and push completion of a line to north west England even further into the future.