HS2: northern leg to Manchester officially scrapped as Rishi Sunak sets out alternative transport vision

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Rishi Sunak has brought the curtain down on what he described as “the long-running saga” over HS2 by confirming weeks of speculation that he was going to scrap the northern leg of the project to Manchester.

The Prime Minister made the widely expected announcement during his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in the city, telling delegates that “the facts have changed” regarding the £106bn scheme.

It means that the high-speed line will now come to a stop in Birmingham, although the trains themselves will continue along existing tracks into Manchester, meaning journey times between the city and the capital would still be cut by 30 minutes. Under the original plan, the time saving between the North West and London would have been 54 minutes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr. Sunak pledged that he would reinvest “every single penny” of the £36bn that will be saved by ditching the Birmingham to Manchester stretch of the route into hundreds of other transport schemes across the North, the Midlands and elsewhere.

The high speed line was never going to come to Lancashire, but the trains were  (image: HS2 Ltd.)The high speed line was never going to come to Lancashire, but the trains were  (image: HS2 Ltd.)
The high speed line was never going to come to Lancashire, but the trains were (image: HS2 Ltd.)

These were, the Prime Minister said, “projects that will make a real difference across our nation” – including a new “Network North” on the railway. He also said that more than 70 road schemes would be invested in and promised to retain the current £2 bus fare cap - introduced at the start of the year - across the country.

"I challenge anyone to tell me with a straight face that all of that isn’t what the North really needs, Mr. Sunak said.

He added that there was “nothing ambitious about simply pouring more and more money into the wrong project”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Responding to the announcement, Lord McLoughlin, chair of Transport for the North (TfN), said that the cancellation was “naturally disappointing”.

“It’s undeniable that this will be seen by many as a missed opportunity for the region, and the country as a whole. Only last week, northern business and political leaders came together at our TfN Board to speak with ‘one voice’ to reaffirm our position that HS2 and NPR in full are vital to truly transform the North.

“The announcement of investment in the region is obviously welcome. And we will look to work with government to fully understand the implications for the North of the proposals set out today in the Prime Minister’s speech and consult with our Board on the best way forward in light of this new change of policy.

“There are still quite a few areas that require further clarification from the Department for Transport, which we will be seeking from them,” Lord McLoughlin added.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Labour’s Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “What’s been announced at conference today is not (a) coherent plan.”

In his speech, Mr. Sunak laid out a litany of other schemes - which he said would tall in the “hundreds” - that would be funded from the newly-created £36bn pot.

“With our new Network North, you will be able to get from Manchester to the new station in Bradford in 30 minutes, Sheffield in 42 minutes, and to Hull in 84 minutes on a fully electrified line.

“We’ll protect the £12 billion to link up Manchester and Liverpool as planned, and we will engage with local leaders on how best to deliver that scheme.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We’ll build the Midlands Rail Hub, connecting 50 stations. We’ll help Andy Street extend the West Midlands Metro.

“We’ll build the Leeds tram, electrify the North Wales mainline. Upgrade the A1, the A2, the A5, the M6… and we’ll connect our Union with the A75, boosting links between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“We’ll fund the Shipley bypass, the Blyth relief road, and deliver 70 other road schemes. We’ll resurface roads across the country. We’ll bring back the Don Valley line. We’ll upgrade the energy coast line between Carlisle, Workington, and Barrow,” Mr Sunak said.