Showing confidence in the project as HS2’s chief executive leaves, the FT reports that Jim O’Neill, the Treasury minister, has urged Number 10 to consider enlarging Birmingham airport – which would be less than 40 minutes away from London after HS2 reaches the Midlands in 2026. 

O’Neill, a former chief economist at Goldman Sachs, has told Number 10 that opting for a big expansion at Birmingham would send “a massive signal on rebalancing the British economy”, according to officials close to the talks. 

The minister’s representations on Birmingham’s future role are being taken seriously by Mrs May’s co-chief of staff, Nick Timothy, born and bred in the city, who wants the government to focus more attention on the Midlands. 

FT journalists George Parker and Jim Pickard say that the proposal is being considered by Theresa May as a possible solution to the capital’s aviation congestion, but others in Mrs May’s administration believe it is too late for Birmingham to be reintroduced into the debate and it could be identified for expansion as part of a longer-term airports strategy.