HS2 line WON’T run to Manchester but Euston connection WILL go ahead as Rishi Sunak frees up ‘tens of billions of pounds’ for Levelling Up the Red Wall
The Birmingham to Manchester leg of High Speed 2 will be abandoned with billions of pounds of savings poured into other transport schemes, Rishi Sunak is expected to announce today.
The Prime Minister is set to use his keynote speech at the Tory conference to end weeks of speculation and confirm his plans for the beleaguered rail line.
Speaking to Conservative members at the conference venue – a converted former rail station in Manchester – Mr Sunak is expected to formally axe the northern leg of HS2.
But he set to save the rail project’s terminus at London Euston, following claims it could also have been junked to leave HS2 ending seven miles outside the centre of London at Old Oak Common.
Mr Sunak is expected to pledge to reinvest around £36 billion of savings from the axed HS2 leg into road and rail schemes in the North and Midlands in a boost to the Tories’ ‘levelling up’ agenda in ‘Red Wall’ areas.
The Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 will be abandoned with billions of pounds of savings poured into other transport schemes, Rishi Sunak is expected to announce today
The Prime Minister is set to use his keynote speech at the Tory conference to end weeks of speculation and confirm his plans for the beleaguered rail line
Speaking to Conservative members at the conference venue – a converted former rail station in Manchester – Mr Sunak is expected to formally axe the northern leg of HS2
Mr Sunak has already faced a fierce backlash from Tory colleagues and northern leaders after the future of Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 was thrown into doubt.
Andy Street, the Tory mayor for the West Midlands, said axing HS2 to Manchester would be ‘an incredible political gaffe’.
He added it would allow opponents to accuse Mr Sunak of having decided to ‘shaft the North’ while in Manchester for the Tory conference.
Mr Street has not ruled out resigning if the PM confirms he is junking the northern leg of HS2.
He put off a trip to Munich to drum up investment for his region, instead choosing to stay in Manchester.
‘We intend to listen to the PM’s speech and respond accordingly,’ his spokesman said.
Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, accused the Government of treating notherners as ‘second class citizens’ when it comes to transport investment.
‘It always seems that people here where I live and where I kind of represent can be treated as second class citizens when it comes to transport,’ he told BBC Breakfast
‘But you know, my message back to all the main parties is, we’re not going to put up with that anymore.
‘It’s not right. It’s not fair. And to do this to this city region and this part of the world when they’re here for the conference, it does say something, doesn’t it, about how politicians think they can treat the North, and it’s just not acceptable.’
Cabinet minister Grant Shapps this morning said the public must wait for Mr Sunak’s speech to ‘hear exact confirmation’ on HS2.
The Defence Secretary sought to argue HS2 trains will still run from Birmingham to Manchester, but not on high-speed rails – a move that is likely to see critics brand it ‘Slow Speed 2’.
Mr Shapps, who was until September last year transport secretary, told BBC Breakfast that Mr Sunak had taken a ‘very close, careful look at that second part of the HS2 line’.
‘I keep reading that HS2 will be scrapped, HS2 will actually run,’ he said.
‘That second part of the line, the balance that has to be made given that bit has not been built yet, is whether it makes sense to carry on building that given the world has changed.’
Mr Shapps argued the decision shows the PM s not thinking about the ‘very short term’ and is instead considering ‘difficult decisions’.
‘It’s much harder to change tracks on something like this when you see the world’s changed than it is just to plough on, it will attract criticism when you do these things. He’s prepared to take those long-term, difficult decisions because he thinks we can get to a bright future by doing them,’ he added.
Mr Shapps claimed that train passengers boarding at Manchester will still experience a ‘much faster journey time’ to London, insisting it was due to the COVID pandemic that the curtailing was needed.
He said: ‘HS2 trains will run to Manchester, so they’ll still come into Manchester Piccadilly, they’ll still run to Leeds, there will still be a much faster journey time than there has been in the past.
‘And not just because some of the section will be actually conventional high speed, or new high-speed rail, but also because even the older section can have further upgrades to, for example, its digital infrastructure which is the way the signalling works.’
He also argued at least some of the money saved will be used to benefit ‘large parts of the North’, amid suggestions cash for potholes, buses and train upgrades will be dished out.
The HS2 scheme was given a budget of £55.7 billion in 2015 but costs have ballooned, with an estimate of up to £98 billion – in 2019 prices – in 2020.
Since then, soaring inflation will have pushed costs even higher.
Under initial plans, Phase One of HS2 involved the railway being built between London and Birmingham, with the line extended from the West Midlands to Crewe in Phase 2a.
Phase 2b would connect Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to the East Midlands.
A planned extension to Leeds was controversially scrapped in November 2021.
Source: Read Full Article