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Reports HS2 services will be halved – and run at lower speeds – dismissed as ‘speculation’ by govt | UK News

The Department for Transport has said it “does not comment on speculation” after proposed cost-saving plans for HS2 were reported.

According to The Daily Telegraph, drastic changes are being planned that would almost halve the number of high-speed trains per hour – and services would travel slower.

The newspaper reported that plans to run services at up to 224mph are in jeopardy as officials decide whether to reduce maximum speeds.

In response, a spokesperson for the Department for Transport told Sky News: “We do not comment on speculation.

“Spades are already in the ground on the HS2 programme. It will better connect regions across the UK, provide a greener option of travel and is supporting tens of thousands of jobs.

“We remain committed to delivering the project. We continue to work in line with the Integrated Rail Plan.”

The proposals are reportedly part of an overhaul – codenamed Project Silverlight and Operation Blue Diamond – as ministers grapple with huge inflationary pressures on Britain’s biggest infrastructure project.

In a 2020 report conducted by former HS2 and Crossrail chairman Sir Doug Oakervee said up to 10% of building costs could be saved if the requirement for such super high speeds was abandoned, the newspaper writes.

HS2 explained: What is it and how much will it cost?

HS2 Map
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HS2 Map

As a result, deputy chairman of Sir Doug’s review, Lord Berkeley, wrote a letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Transport Secretary Mark Harper – stating that, if speeds were reduced to 125mph, significant amounts of money could be saved.

“Why do you need to get to London 30 minutes quicker when you have WiFi and your laptop on the train?” he said.

“I suggest that ministers should look at options for radically cutting the costs of what is left of HS2.”

But the prospect of cuts has been criticised by advocates of the project, the Telegraph reported.

As well as cutting costs, HS2 Ltd, the government-owned company, has been accused of using an “untested, out-of-date, fundamentally flawed” tool to assess its impact on nature.

The Wildlife Trusts published a report claiming there will be “at least 17% less nature present” after construction of Phase One between London and Birmingham, whereas HS2 Ltd “say there will only be a 2.6% nature loss”.

Dr Rachel Giles, evidence and planning manager at Cheshire Wildlife Trust and author of the report called for the company to “urgently recalculate” the total loss of nature.

But a HS2 Ltd spokesman said: “We don’t recognise the figures from the report nor do we believe them to be reliable”.

Tory leadership contest: Johnson and Sunak hold late night talks – fuelling speculation they could strike a deal | Politics News

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak held talks late into the night, Sky News understands.

Reports suggest Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak’s talks focused on a potential joint ticket.

The discussion has fuelled speculation the pair could strike a deal – though neither the former prime minister nor the ex-chancellor have officially declared themselves in the race to succeed Liz Truss.

Race to be PM heats up – follow the latest updates

The expected timeline of events in electing a new PM
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The expected timeline of events in electing a new PM

To be included on the ballot paper, leadership candidates need support from at least 100 Conservative MPs.

Public endorsements mean Mr Sunak has surpassed this threshold – with 121 backers – and Mr Johnson’s allies claim he has the numbers required to run too.

However, the latest Sky News tally suggests just 56 MPs have confirmed they would support Mr Johnson’s campaign to be prime minister for the second time.

One of Mr Sunak’s supporters – Richard Holden – rejected claims that Mr Johnson had 100 MPs behind him, and said this number of public endorsements had not been made “because they don’t exist”.

The only person who has thrown their hat into the ring, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, has received endorsements from 23 of her peers.

The current contest has been expedited following Liz Truss’s resignation as prime minister, and nominations for the ballot paper are due to close at 2pm tomorrow afternoon.

Read more:
Who are Tory MPs backing to be the next prime minister?
MPs who applauded Johnson’s departure now urge #BringBackBoris
Analysis: Johnson dominates talk, but a win won’t be easy

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‘I can’t have a liar in parliament’

The talks come after Mr Johnson jetted back to the UK from his holiday in the Dominican Republic in economy class – with some fellow passengers booing him as he boarded.

If all three candidates were to receive 100 backers, there would be a vote by MPs – with the winning two put forward to the party membership.

A vote would then take place, meaning the new leader would be chosen by Friday.

In a significant moment for Team Sunak, Kemi Badenoch threw her support behind the former chancellor after a string of big names had flocked to Mr Johnson.

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What would it take to force a general election?

While she admitted that she had been a member of “the Boris Johnson fan club”, she warned the Tories are not “organising a popularity contest” – and the party is “not a vehicle for any one individual’s personal ambitions”.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Ms Badenoch said of her decision to endorse Mr Sunak: “Like any work colleagues, we had our disagreements, which I elaborated on when we were competitors in the same contest.

“Now it is imperative that I let people know the decisions he made that I knew were absolutely right.”

She also spoke of his attention to inflation and reining in of “unnecessary, wasteful spending”.

Former foreign secretary Dominic Raab said it is “difficult to see” how Mr Johnson could become prime minister again when he is “absorbed and distracted” by the issues surrounding partygate.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Raab said he was “confident” Mr Sunak would run in the Tory leadership race and was the “standout candidate” among the field.

‘Voters must get a say’

Meanwhile, opposition parties continue to call for an immediate general election amid the ongoing turmoil within the Tory Party.

The SNP’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, today wrote to Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer, urging him to work together to bring forward a vote of no confidence in the government and force a general election – though they would need support from some Tory MPs to win it.

Mr Blackford said: “The Tories have taken a wrecking ball to the UK economy and made families suffer – as mortgage rates rise, pensions fall, and soaring inflation pushes up household bills.

“Having done so much damage, they simply cannot be allowed to impose a third Tory prime minister without an election. It would be unthinkable and undemocratic. Voters must get a say.”

To register your interest in joining the audience please email TheGreatDebate@sky.uk