HS2 leg to Manchester axed – with 'Network North' pitched to voters instead

Rishi Sunak has confirmed the long-rumoured choice to scrap the northern leg of HS2.

Reports the deliberate excessive velocity rail line would finish in Birmingham – fairly than persevering with as much as Manchester – have been circling for weeks, with sources telling Sky News on Monday the choice had been made.

But the prime minister has spent days dodging the query, solely making the announcement as he gave the closing speech to this 12 months’s Conservative Party convention.

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Mr Sunak defended the transfer by promising to spend the billions of money financial savings on a whole lot of different transport schemes throughout the nation as an alternative.

They will embrace:

• The ‘Network North’ undertaking to affix up northern cities by rail

• A ‘Midlands Rail Hub’ to attach 50 stations

• Keeping the £2 bus fare cap throughout the nation

But a variety of the tasks seem to have been introduced earlier than and critics have urged Mr Sunak is reviving schemes he was answerable for cancelling.

HS2 will nonetheless go to Euston regardless of ideas it may finish within the west London suburb of Old Oak Common, fairly than within the centre of the capital.

Speaking from a former practice station in Manchester, the place the Tories’ annual occasion is being held, Mr Sunak advised members getting infrastructure proper was key to driving progress, however a “false consensus” had emerged, with tasks “driven by cities at the exclusion of everywhere else”.

He mentioned HS2 was “the ultimate example of the old consensus”, saying the associated fee had doubled and the “economic case” for the road had “massively weakened with the changes to business travel post-COVID”.

The prime minister added: “I say, to those who backed the project in the first place, the facts have changed. And the right thing to do when the facts change, is to have the courage to change direction.

“So I’m ending this long-running saga. I’m cancelling the remainder of the HS2 undertaking.”

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Mr Sunak mentioned scrapping part two to Manchester would unlock £36bn, and “every single penny” can be spent on “hundreds of new transport projects in the North and the Midlands, and across the country”.

But the federal government’s new “focus” can be on a undertaking known as Network North, which might “join up our great towns and cities in the North and the Midlands”.

The absolutely electrified line would see trains make the journey from Manchester to Hull in 84 minutes, to Sheffield in 42 minutes and Bradford in half-hour.

“No government has ever developed a more ambitious scheme for northern transport than our new Network North,” the prime minister added.

“This is the right way to drive growth and spread opportunity across our country. To level up.”

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HS2: Burnham slams govt choice

Listing different transport pledges, Mr Sunak mentioned he would “protect” the £12bn undertaking to hyperlink Manchester and Liverpool, construct a tram in Leeds and improve the A1, A2, A5 and the M6.

He additionally promised to increase the West Midlands Metro, electrify the North Wales important line and 70 additional street schemes.

“I challenge anyone to tell me with a straight face that all of that isn’t what the North really needs,” he mentioned.

“Our plan will drive far more growth and opportunity here in the North than a faster train to London ever would.”

But in a sequence of tweets, Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh challenged the bulletins, saying: “Network North sounds suspiciously like Northern Powerhouse Rail, which has been promised no less than 60 times by the Tories and in three election manifestos.

“This included the Bradford Station. It included electrification to Hull. It included the TransPennine improve.”

She added: “[Mr] Sunak promised a sequence of street upgrades. The A1, A2, A5 and M6 had been all promised in 2020. He introduced the Shipley Bypass and the Blyth Relief roads, each introduced in 2018. Construction was meant to start out in 2020 in Blyth and did not.

“Stopping and starting projects not only undermines the public’s and industry confidence in the government’s plans, its also a massive waste of public money.”

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West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin known as the choice “yet another betrayal of the North which will punish passengers and businesses alike”.

The Labour politician added: “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.”

The head of analysis and coverage on the GMB union, Laurence Turner, additionally mentioned the scrapping of the northern HS2 leg would “send a shockwave through the construction industry and railway supply chain, costing hundreds of jobs”.

He added: “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 cannot rebalance the financial system or repair the railway capability disaster with out HS2. It’s important that the deliberate route is now protected so {that a} future authorities can reverse this disastrous choice.”

Mr Sunak accepted he would face criticism for the choice – having already been slammed by Tory grandees, regional politicians and companies earlier than the announcement was even made.

“They will say that halting it signals a lack of ambition,” he advised the viewers. “There will be people I respect, people in our own party, who will oppose it.

“But there may be nothing bold about merely pouring increasingly more cash into the incorrect undertaking.

“There is nothing long-term about ignoring your real infrastructure needs so you can spend an ever-larger amount on one grand project.

“For too lengthy, folks in Westminster have invested within the transport they need, not the transport the remainder of the nation, significantly the North and Midlands, needs and wishes.”

Addressing one critic in particular – the Tory mayor in the West Midlands, Andy Street – saying he was a man he had “enormous admiration and respect for”, Mr Sunak added: “I do know we’ve completely different views on HS2.

“But I know we can work together to ensure a faster, stronger spine: quicker trains and more capacity between Birmingham and Manchester.”

The prime minister introduced a variety of different insurance policies that had been trailed within the days main as much as the convention – together with introducing a British baccalaureate to permit pupils over 16 to check a wider vary of topics, and new ways for making England smoke-free.