Posted: Wed 4th Oct 2023

HS2: Rishi Sunak set to axe plans for high speed rail link between Birmingham and Manchester, according to reports

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 4th, 2023

The prime minister is set to announce the shelving of the HS2 high-speed rail line connecting the West Midlands to Manchester, due to spiralling costs, according to multiple media reports.

Rishi Sunak is expected to announce the scrapping of the HS2 rail link to Manchester, as he gives his first party conference speech as Tory leader in Manchester on Wednesday.

According to Sky News, HS2 will start at Euston rather than Old Oak Common – but between Birmingham and Manchester, it will not be high speed.

The rail line will stop in Manchester, but from Birmingham, it will switch to use existing West Coast Mainline track. “It will therefore not be high speed after Birmingham.” Sky states.

Initiated in 2010, HS2 was dubbed “the most significant transport infrastructure project since the motorways’ inception” by former Transport Secretary, Justine Greening.

The project, once heralded for its potential to rejuvenate UK transport, has been embroiled in controversy amid spirals costs.

While the route between the East Midlands and Leeds has already met its premature end, the West Midlands-Manchester section’s fate now looks sealed.

Despite HS2 not physically gracing Welsh soil, its ramifications certainly do.

It has been designated as a joint project between England and Wales by the UK government.

Consequently, Wales won’t receive additional transport funds, in contrast to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

According to the Welsh government’s calculations, if the project were reclassified as exclusive to England, Wales would be entitled to approximately £5bn, based on its population size.

This supplementary funding would come via the Barnett Formula, which determines the financial allocations the devolved governments get from the Treasury.

The ongoing HS2 saga took centre stage during the First Minister’s Questions in the Welsh Parliament on Tuesday.

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, the leader of Plaid Cymru, voiced concerns over the reported scrapping of the Birmingham North to Manchester stretch.

He said, “It was never a project to benefit Wales, of course.” He also took a swipe at the Conservative leader in Wales, Andrew RT Davies, suggesting that fighting for Wales’s fair share in HS2 funding should be on his agenda.

During an interview with BBC Radio Wales, Mr Davies was asked about HS2 and funding for Wales, he said the subject was ‘It’s above my pay grade.’

Highlighting the wider economic implications, Iorwerth commented, “It’s beyond any doubt that this is an England-only project, improving England’s railways at our expense.”

He illustrated the pressing need for transportation improvements with a personal anecdote: “I flew to the United States last week, and it took less time than it did for my daughter to travel by train from Bangor to Cardiff.”

Responding, Mark Drakeford MS, concurred with the misclassification concerns surrounding HS2, he said:

“Wales has already missed out on £270 million as a result of HS2 misclassification in the current spending review period,” Drakeford said, reinforcing the need for reclassification.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales this morning, Askar Sheibani, Chair and founder of the 2000-member Deeside Business Forum, said the UK government has thrown billions down the drain with HS2.

He said: “We did not believe this vanity project in England would have any benefit for north Wales.”

“We have two major cities around the corner from us, Manchester and Liverpool. There are two major international airports around the corner from us, connecting us throughout the world but we an outdated railway network to these two major cities and airports.”

“We don’t have a proper connection to Anglesey free port which could conduct us throughout the world through oceans.“

“So this madness, they (UK government) have already wasted £25 billion (pouring it) down the drain.“

“They could have spent a fraction of that upgrading our network in the region.”

“They could have created an incredibly successful economy in north Wales. They ignored us as usual, they didn’t consult us, as usual, and this is the result of their madness.”

Vice Chair of Growth Track 360 a group of business and local authority leaders, Councillor Ian Roberts, said: “Cancellation of the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 would be a symbol of failure.

Cllr Roberts, the leader of Flintshire Council said: “Public transport in Great Britain is in crisis.“

“We need leadership to develop it as an alternative to the car, which is necessary to decarbonise transport.“

“We have a system where it is commonplace that trains are late or don’t run, bus services are withdrawn, and passengers pay more for less.“

“The price of curtailing HS2 today would be paid in the future with lost jobs, a lack of capacity in the UK to deliver future rail investment, a worsening of Britain’s competitiveness as a location and the deepening of divisions between different parts of the UK.”

 

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