The Manchester leg of HS2 is set to be scrapped as Rishi Sunak has announced the news today after weeks of speculation. The Prime Minister has confirmed that the HS2 scheme from Birmingham to Manchester will be scrapped in his Conservative Party Conference speech today, which means the North West will no longer fully get a high speed rail connection to London.
Rishi Sunak confirmed the HS2 line will stop at Birmingham, where trains will continue to Manchester on the existing West Coast Mainline track. It has been reported that the line will start in central London at Euston, rather than Old Oak Common, but that between Birmingham and Manchester trains will not be high-speed.
Reports have shown that the development of HS2 so far has resulted in soaring costs despite only one leg (London to Birmingham) currently underway, which will go ahead with completion. The Leeds leg of the HS2 project had already been cancelled and now all lines beyond Birmingham, including Manchester, have been abandoned, meaning Crewe will also miss out on high speed rail.
A budget of £55.7 billion for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015 but the latest estimates for the project amounting to about £71bn. According to reports, Sunak is predicted to announce a package of transport measures – to improve roads, buses and trains – reportedly worth £36bn.
In his speech, Sunak has announced he “will reinvest every single penny” saved from HS2, which he says is £36 billion pounds, in hundreds of new transport projects in the North and the Midlands, and across the country.
“Every region outside of London will receive the same or more government investment than they would have done under HS2, with quicker results,” Sunak continues.
The Prime Minister also announced at the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central a new Network North. Rishi Sunak said commuters would 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 with Network North.
In addition, Rishi Sunak revealed that single bus fares being capped in England at £2, will be kept across the country.
The future of the northern leg of HS2 has been met with disappointment with Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham reacting to the news on X saying: “So, in other words, HS2 won’t go to Manchester and people in the North will be treated as second-class citizens – again? What a disgrace.”
Back in June, Manchester City Council Leader Bev Craig made the case in Parliament for HS2 and the Government to rethink their plans to ensure the best form of high-speed rail to the city – with a new underground NPR (Northern Powerhouse Rail) -HS2 station at Piccadilly.
Reacting to plans for the Manchester leg of HS2 to be scrapped, Zoë Billingham, director of Institute for Public Policy (IPPR) North, said: “The government has played fast and loose with HS2 and scrapping the Manchester leg is a betrayal of the North.
“Transport is the backbone of rebalancing our regions. New promises heard today to redeploy HS2 funding – across the whole country – not only undermines levelling up but also lacks credibility. Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 are in the long-term interest of the country. This is a double blow for the North.”