(Bloomberg) -- UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government is pushing ahead with plans to scrap the northern leg of a new high-speed rail link — one of Britain’s biggest infrastructure projects — even after opposition from two of his predecessors, The Times reported.
Sunak is considering scaling back the flagship project, as part of a wave of policy moves ahead of a general election that has to be held by January 2025. It comes after Boris Johnson told The Times that any decision to stop the line in the Midlands was a “desperate” move that would damage links to northern cities just before the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
The PM’s team has been eyeing revisions on green policies as fertile ground after the ruling party narrowly fended off a Labour surge in Johnson’s former parliamentary seat in northwest London by talking up motorist concerns over low-emissions charges. It also puts Sunak at odds with Johnson, who saw embracing net zero carbon commitments as a way to stabilize Britain’s global reputation in the wake of his successful campaign to leave the European Union.
David Cameron had also privately warned Sunak against abandoning the high-speed line, The Times said, citing two people familiar with the ex-prime minister. Sunak’s cabinet will decide the future of railway in the next couple of weeks to allow for the fiscal watchdog to adapt its forecasts, the news report said.
The government has been floating policies across the newspapers from health to education to personal finances. The Financial Times reported that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt plans to boost the takeup of individual savings accounts by allowing them to be used to support UK-listed companies. ISAs are a popular way to invest up to £20,000 ($24,500) tax-free a year.
The Guardian separately said that Sunak is considering imposing tough anti-smoking measures, similar to those introduced in New Zealand. The plan would involve steadily increasing the legal smoking age, meaning those born after 2009 would effectively be banned from ever being able to buy cigarettes.
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