British cabinet minister Grant Shapps on Sunday emphasised the mounting costs of plans for a high-speed rail line serving northern England, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may decide to formally axe in coming days.

Shapps declined to confirm newspaper reports that the Manchester to Birmingham leg of the HS2 line will be scrapped, but told Sky News: “Money is not infinite.”

“It is absolutely right that the government looks at it and says – hold on a minute, is this just a sort of open-ended cheque, or are we going to make sure this project gets delivered to a pace and a timetable that actually works for the taxpayer?”

A move to cancel the northern leg of HS2 would mark Sunak’s latest abandonment of earlier pledges. Last week he slowed the pace of key climate change measures, including a ban on the sale of new petrol-powered cars.

Sunak – whose Conservatives are trailing in opinion polls behind the opposition Labour Party ahead of an expected election next year – has said he is making tough choices that strike the right balance between aspiration and cost.