Rishi Sunak has been warned by senior Tories not to scrap the HS2 rail line to Manchester ahead of the Conservative conference in the city.
The Prime Minister is considering whether to scrap or delay the leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester in response to soaring costs.
Cabinet minister Grant Shapps said it would be “crazy” not to reconsider the project in the light of the rising price tag and the UK’s economic situation.
But former chancellor George Osborne and ex-deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine warned that axing the Manchester route would be a “gross act of vandalism” which would mean “abandoning” the North and Midlands.
Writing in The Times, they warned Mr Sunak: “Governments are remembered for what they build and create. Make this mistake and yours may only be known for what it cancelled and curtailed.”
If the northern section was cancelled “the remaining stump, little more than a shuttle service from Birmingham to a London suburb, would become an international symbol of our decline”, they said.
Commons Health Committee chairman Steve Brine said it would look “odd” to scrap the scheme in the days before Tory MPs and activists arrive in Manchester.
He also said he hoped the line would run all the way into central London rather than terminating at Old Oak Common in the capital’s western suburbs.
“It would seem very odd for us to be in Manchester next week and can a project to Manchester,” Mr Brine told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.
“It would seem very odd not to bring this new rail line into central London and just stop it at Old Oak Common.
“So I really hope a way can be found to do this.”
Andy Street, Tory mayor of the West Midlands, said scrapping the main line of the project would create the “most expensive white elephant in UK history” and “be a disaster for the country”.
Meanwhile, Andy Burnham, Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, warned that Sunak was “pulling the rug from under us” while local government was trying to “level up” the region.