Boris Johnson has called for HS2’s construction to be paused and the government to prioritise building new high-speed rail links in northern England instead.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Johnson said the focus should switch to transport projects in the North and urged the government to put HS2 on ice so a new TransPennine high-speed line could be built instead.
Mr Johnson said: “There are projects we should have on transport in the North of the country that ought to take precedence over HS2.
“It’s crazy how long it takes to get east-west across the country.”
Mr Johnson has joined leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom in calling for the £55.7bn rail line to be halted.
The Times reported that Ms Leadsom questioned whether HS2 should go ahead at a Cabinet meeting last week, citing the project’s finances as a significant concern.
Earlier this year it was reported that environment secretary Michael Gove had sounded out MPs over investing the money for HS2 into local transport links in the Midlands and the North instead.
Despite the comments from Mr Johnson and Ms Leadsom, a number of Conservatives have moved to defend HS2.
Speaking at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event on Sunday, business secretary Greg Clark said scrapping the project would be the “completely wrong approach”.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling also reiterated his support for the scheme over the weekend, saying HS2 would deliver the “step-change in rail travel that the country needed”.
Enabling works are now well under way on phase one of the HS2 line between London and Birmingham.
HS2 let its £6.6bn civils contracts last July, with main construction work due to start in June 2019.
Phase one of the line is expected to be completed in 2026, while the second phase from Birmingham to Leeds and Crewe to Manchester is expected to become operational in 2033.
In addition to calling for the pausing of HS2, Mr Johnson said the government should push forward with plans for a bridge to be built between Great Britain and Ireland.
He said: “What we need to do is build a bridge between our islands. Why don’t we? Why don’t we?
“There is so much more we can do, and what grieves me about the current approach to Brexit is that we are just in danger of not believing in ourselves, not believing in Britain.”