Sunak confirms HS2 to be scrapped – hails new Network North

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed at his party’s conference this week that HS2 is to be scrapped.

“I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project,” he said as the centrepiece of an hour long speech where he also pledged that “every single penny” of the budget for the line from Manchester to Birmingham would instead be spent on a new £36bn ‘Network North” that would fund “hundreds of transport projects that will make a difference across our nation”.

He mentioned by name a new station at Bradford within 30 minutes of Manchester, a metro tram system for Leeds and an electrification of an east west route from Manchester to Sheffield would cut journey times to 42 minutes.

He also said he would end “rip off degrees” and a new qualification to post 16 education, offering a requirement to study more subjects, including maths, and a parity of esteem between the technical and academic routes.

Responding to confirmation that the HS2 Northern leg will be cancelled, West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “This is yet another betrayal of the North which will punish passengers and businesses alike.

Tracy Brabin

“As we have found with this Government, the devil is in the detail and we can’t take them at their word.

“Northern transport investment requires long-term planning and conversations with local leaders who know their areas best.”

South Yorkshire’s mayor Oliver Coppard said the decision was “not just a broken promise to the North, it’s a catastrophe for the whole of the UK.”

“For the whole of the country, it will see living standards decline,” he added.

James Mason, CEO at West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The scrapping of the HS2 link to Manchester is the final nail in the coffin for high-speed rail in the North of England.

“After more than a decade of promises, life-changing infrastructure upgrades which would have done so much to boost productivity and investment into the North have now been done away with at the stroke of a pen.

“We are now left with the same Victorian rail network that will simply not have the capacity to deal with demand over the coming decades.

“While a commitment to local connectivity is welcome, such as the plans for a new through station for Bradford and for the Shipley bypass to be funded, these are pre-existing plans that have been talked about in some cases for years but with little by way of delivery.

“Business investment decisions in the North for more than 10 years have been made with HS2 in mind. All in all, this is a dark day for the North’s economy.”

Martin Hathaway, managing director of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Today’s announcement from the Prime Minister confirming the cancellation of the HS2 project is frustrating but not surprising.

Martin Hathaway

“The project has lacked any concrete decisions or true progress since its conception in 2009.

“While HS2 as we know it will not go ahead, I am eager to hear how the Prime Minister plans to invest the same £36bn in transport projects in the north and the midlands.

“This funding is vitally needed to ensure we can connect the Powerhouse that is Yorkshire to the wider nation and capital.

“As Mr Sunak rightly pointed out, we cannot reach our full potential of being economically successful and environmentally sustainable without modern, cheap and efficient high-speed rail and hugely expanded local bus services.

“Connectivity is key and if the Prime Minister can deliver the much-needed electri-links across the Pennines, and stronger links between Huddersfield, Sheffield, Manchester and the rest of the country, progress will be made.

“Any more delays or unfulfilled promises about the north’s key infrastructure will only serve to extend the saga further. We need decisions and we need action.”

Trade union reaction was swift as Laurence Turner, GMB Head of Research and Policy, said: “Rishi Sunak’s decision to inflict the biggest rail cut since the Beeching axe will send a shockwave through the construction industry and railway supply chain, costing hundreds of jobs.

“The UK’s political instability was already holding the economy back – it will now be even harder to fund and deliver the new infrastructure that the country desperately needs.

“We can’t rebalance the economy or fix the railway capacity crisis without HS2. It’s essential that the planned route is now protected so that a future government can reverse this disastrous decision.”