The PM confirmed the news during his speech at the Tory party conference in Manchester today (October 4, 2023), defending the axing of the northern leg of HS2 with the announcement of plans to spend the money saved on other transport schemes.
“I am ending this long-running saga. I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project and in its place, we will reinvest every single penny, £36bn, in hundreds of new transport projects in the North and the Midlands, across the country.”
These new projects are set to include ‘Network North’, to join up northern cities by rail, and a ‘Midlands Rail Hub’, to connect 50 different stations. The £2 bus fare cap is also set to remain in place across the country.
Sunak told the Conservative party conference, “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.”
The change was attributed to the spiralling price of HS2, with Sunak saying that the cost had now doubled, and that business travel had massively changed since the COVID pandemic.
In a statement, the government echoed that “the redirected funding will deliver the vital transport links that people want and need… connecting our great towns and cities while delivering real change to benefit the country and future generations.”
The decision, however, has been met with instant backlash.
West Yorkshire Mayor and Labour politician, Tracy Brabin, said the scrapping is ‘yet another betrayal of the North which will punish passengers and businesses alike’.
"As we have found with this government, the devil is in the detail and we can't take them at their word,” she said. “Northern transport investment requires long-term planning and conversations with local leaders who know their areas best."
Founder of Stop HS2, Joe Rukin, commented: “We have always said that what was needed in terms of transport infrastructure was smaller local transport projects which benefit far more people and can be delivered far more quickly and for less money, and now we have been totally vindicated in that approach. The only problem is how much has been wasted on the most expensive train wreck in history.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, added: “Following on from the pause of the route into Euston and the cancellation of the unviable eastern leg of HS2, what is now happening to HS2 is death by a thousand cuts; it’s time the government put this white elephant out of its misery and cancel HS2 in full.”
What do you think? Was scrapping the northern leg of HS2 the right thing to do? Let us know in comments below.