Labour is still committed to building the new HS2 rail line in full, the party's shadow rail minister has confirmed.
Tan Dhesi told an event at the party's virtual conference that the new line was “conceived and proposed by the last Labour government” and that the party would continue to back it under Keir Starmer's leadership.
The commitment comes despite inflating costs on the project and a new Labour leadership that has so far been reticent to make major spending commitments.
The shadow rail minister also said the party was still committed to public ownership of the railways, and dismissed concerns that rail would become less important in the long-term because of coronavirus.
He argued that "people will come back to rail" with the right public health precautions in place. Services across the country are currently running at around 30 to 40 per cent of their normal load due to concerns about the virus.
“We firmly believe that [HS2] is the only way to bring our nation into the 21st century," Mr Dhesi said.
"Countries across the world have developed these networks and we’ve seen the impact of HS1 on St Pancras, that belief has become firmer [since coronavirus] in my opinion."
But he added: “We do not think the government has been doing a good job in terms of how costs are ballooning out of control. That will cost public support".
The shadow minister made the comments at an online event hosted by the Rail Industry Association. Darren Caplan, the association's chief executive, welcomed the commitment.
“Before the Coronavirus outbreak, passenger numbers were at an all-time high, having doubled over the past 25 years," Mr Caplan said.
"Numbers are already beginning to return as the economy restarts, and whilst the types of journey may change it is highly likely we will still need a clean, mass transit, rail system, with passengers likely to return to past levels, in the coming 20 to 30 years too.
"So we need to ensure we invest in our rail network, to make sure it is ready for the future, whilst delivering jobs and economic growth in towns and communities to spur an economic recovery. It was great to hear Tan Dhesi support investment in our railways".
Labour's 2019 manifesto pledged to extend HS2 to Scotland, which would cut journey times between London and the Scottish central belt to below three hours.
The existing project, which has faced delays and cost-overruns but is now under construction, consists of high-speed rail network centred on Birmingham connecting that city with lines to London, Leeds and Manchester.
The new line will cut journey times between major cities, including those not directly on the line - but also free up capacity on existing lines for more frequent local and regional services.