HS2’s Manchester leg could be scrapped under UK Government cost-saving measures
Concerns are mounting that the Conservative government is sidelining the needs of northern England and north Wales, as speculation rises about the potential axing of the next phase of the HS2 rail project.
This morning, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spokesman did not dismiss claims that plans to extend the high-speed rail line from Birmingham to Manchester might be shelved.
The decision, if implemented, is estimated to save around £34bn.
These speculations were fuelled by a report from The Independent stating that Prime Minister and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt convened earlier this week to deliberate on the rail scheme’s future.
This development follows the government’s previous announcement, nearly two years ago, of cancelling the HS2 extension from Birmingham to Leeds.
The UK Government has suggested that HS2 will improve connectivity to Wales, even though HS2 services will not stop there.
As part of the Crewe to Manchester leg, the Government is planning to introduce a junction north of Crewe (the Crewe northern connection) between HS2 and the west coast main line, which is due to reduce journey times to North Wales.
Unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales doesn’t receive Barnett consequentials – additional funding given to devolved Governments as a consequence of additional spending by the UK Government – from spending on HS2, because national rail infrastructure in England and Wales is reserved to the UK Government.
For this reason, HM Treasury has assessed HS2 as a ‘national project’ which benefits both countries.
Manchester Mayor Andy Mayor took to social media to voice his discontent.
Highlighting the approaching 10th anniversary of George Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” speech, Mayor lamented the possible reneging of the final rail pledge from that announcement.
It’s coming up 10 years since Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” speech and the Tories are set to scrap the last of his rail pledges.
The southern half of England gets a modern rail system and the North left with Victorian infrastructure.
— Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) September 14, 2023
He contrasted the modern rail system for southern England with the dated Victorian infrastructure allocated for the North.
His call for “levelling up” was accompanied by a candid critique of the current government’s handling of the HS2 project.
In his words, the government is “guilty of gross mismanagement” and is seemingly making the North bear the brunt of its shortcomings.
The mayor’s sentiment is clear: the northern population is increasingly feeling like they’re perceived as “second-class citizens” when it comes to transport and infrastructure investment.
He urged the government to initiate an open dialogue about their genuine plans for northern England and let the electorate gauge its adequacy.
The government, however, remains tight-lipped on specific future plans. The prime minister’s spokesperson offered a reserved comment, highlighting that work has already commenced on the HS2 programme and the focus remains on its delivery.
This is not the first time the HS2 project has come under scrutiny. Earlier this year, in March, the government faced backlash for subtly announcing another delay to the HS2, further eroding public confidence in the project’s timely completion.
The unfolding situation underscores a broader debate in the UK about balanced regional development and the commitment of successive governments to ensure the entire nation benefits from infrastructural advancements. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com