That's according to HS2's chief executive. With pandemic expenditure now past £370 billion and counting, is the Birmingham to Leeds line going to put on indefinite hold?
HS2 Ltd has been instructed by the Department of Transport to stop work on the eastern leg, connecting Birmingham to Leeds, according to chief executive Mark Thurston. In a submission to a Commons committee last week he said he is waiting for guidance from the government on the way forward.
Phase 1 from London to Birmingham is well under way.
Phase 2a from Birmingham to Crewe appears to be going forward as planned, with Kier having just been awarded a £300 million contract for highways and utility work.
Phase 2b includes both Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds. Mr Thurston advised the committee that he had been told to continue only on phase 2 west to Manchester. "We are only focused on that".
Addressing the same committee, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, stated that there was a better business case for a rail hub to improve connections between the Midlands' town and cities. Transport for the North has perviously said that an east-west line, a.k.a. HS3, would deliver greater economic value.
All of this follows the government's announcement at the end of last year that it was suspending design work on the eastern leg until after the publication of an integrated plan for transport in the North and Midlands. One former transport minister read this to mean that the Birmingham to Leeds line would never happen.
The eastern leg may not have come off the rails, but it is certainly in a siding. Could it be that it becomes the line that no-one outside of Yorkshire and the East Midlands still wants?
Our long held view is reinforced. The biggest beneficiary of HS2 will be Birmingham.