HS2: Prime Minister’s scrapping of Northern railway leg to Manchester sparks conversation amongst commuters

Commuters share their thoughts after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that the planned HS2 line between Birmingham and Manchester would be cancelled.
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The recent announcement from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the northern leg of HS2, which would have shortened the journey between Manchester and London by 54 minutes, was to be scrapped has sparked conversation amongst local and regional commuters.

Sunak confirmed that the long-planned high-speed train line and the flagship infrastructure project of the north-south levelling-up agenda would be cancelled just last week after days of fervent speculation.

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Instead, the Prime Minister insisted that the freed-up funds, amounting to £36bn, would be reinvested in other local transportation projects under the umbrella moniker ‘Network North’, although documents detailing said projects have since been deleted from official government websites.

The Northern leg of HS2 has been scrapped by Prime Minister Rishi SunakThe Northern leg of HS2 has been scrapped by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
The Northern leg of HS2 has been scrapped by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Transport secretary Mark Harper also went on to tell the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire that the replacement projects were just ‘examples… of the sorts of things that that money could be spent on’ rather than official government policy.

On the regular service between Preston and Manchester, one male passenger said: “There was a good chance of shortened journey times, but now they’ve scrapped it. None of that line’s going to happen now, so I’m going to have to keep taking slow trains or drive, which I really don’t want to do, but it forces your hand.”

The line was already under construction, meaning that many people had already started to be affected by it, with another passenger saying: “They made way onto the land and made people sell their houses and land, too. It’s ruined a lot of people’s lives.

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“I can see one guy who lost his house, and now his business, and everything’s gone,” he added. “He’s looking at the house and it’s just sitting there empty.”

A female passenger from Kendal said: “I think that the investment should have been spent on that (HS2). Especially with all the hotels they knocked down.”

Passengers on board the Preston to Manchester train spoke of transportation in the north being poor, and of the disappointment they felt towards the cancellation. According to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research comparing levels of public investment in London and the south-east with that in the north, London received the equivalent of £12,147 per person in the five years to 2019/20, while in the north the figure was just £8,125.

A male passenger said: “They’ll fund roads, but they won’t fund railways, and no one’s going to take them, you know, especially to the north. It’s years of Tory policy: strip the money out the north and well, it’s a big disappointment, but like I say, it’s just unsurprising.”