As HS2 is cut back, the Prime Minister makes new promises about transportation

After canceling the northern leg of the HS2 high-speed train link, the prime minister promised billions for transportation projects all over the country.

In a speech at the Conservative party conference, Rishi Sunak said that instead, £36 billion would be spent on other train, road, and bus projects.

After weeks of rumors, he finally said that the part of HS2 that went from Birmingham to Manchester would not be built.

He said the choice was made because of the huge costs and long wait times.

But this has led to claims that the government is giving up on its goal to “level up” parts of the UK that are not in London.

In his statement, Mr. Sunak said that the government “will reinvest every single penny” saved by canceling the rest of HS2, which he said was worth £36bn.

“Every region outside of London will get the same or more government investment than they would have gotten under HS2, with faster results,” he said, though it is not clear when this money will be made available.

“Our plan will bring far more growth and opportunity to the North than a faster train to London ever could,” he said.

The idea behind high-speed train was to connect London, the Midlands, and the north of England.

The first part is already being built, between west London and Birmingham. Given how far along that part is, Mr. Sunak said that it will be done.

But the whole plan has already been delayed, its costs have gone up, and parts of it have been cut. For example, the planned eastern leg between Birmingham and Leeds was cut in late 2021.

In March, the government said that building the line from Birmingham to Crewe and then to Manchester would be put off for at least two years.

The current Defense Secretary and former Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said lately that it would be “crazy” not to look over plans for HS2 now that costs have gone up.

So far, how much has HS2 cost?
In his first speech as prime minister to the party meeting, Mr. Sunak said that after the coronavirus pandemic, changes in travel meant that the economic case for HS2 “has been massively weakened.”

The last government estimate of how much HS2 would cost, without the section in the east that was scrapped, was about £71bn.

But this was done at 2019 prices, so it doesn’t take into account how much materials and pay have gone up since then.

In his speech on Thursday, the prime minister said that connections between the east and the west of England were “far more important” than those between the north and the south.

He said that his plans would give money to “hundreds” of other projects, like:

Putting together the Midlands train hub, which will connect 50 stations
Getting the A1, A2, A5, and M6 better
Funding the Shipley bypass, the Blyth relief road, and 70 other road projects. Building a tram system in Leeds.
Putting in electric tracks in north Wales
Putting new pavement on roads across the country
He also said that he would protect the £12 billion that was set aside to connect trains between Manchester and Liverpool, but not with high-speed rail.

Under the new “Network North” plans, the prime minister said it would be possible to get from Manchester to Hull in 84 minutes on a fully-electrified line. However, it is not yet clear what decision has been made about the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project, which aims to improve connections between Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool.

At first, NPR was supposed to meet up with HS2 and use a part of the high-speed line to get through a complicated part of downtown Manchester.

Mr. Sunak said that the HS2 plan would still end at Euston in central London instead of Old Oak Common in the west of the city, but he promised to get a handle on the project’s costs.

In recent days, a number of top Conservatives criticized the prime minister and told him not to get rid of the northern part of the rail link.

George Osborne, who used to be Chancellor, said that HS2 was “a great chance to deliver for northern voters” and that canceling phase two to Manchester “would be a great tragedy.”

He also said that NPR was not a replacement for HS2 and that both projects “should move forward at the same time.”

In a dramatic speech on Monday, Andy Street, the Tory mayor of the West Midlands, said that cutting the Manchester leg would be like “cancelling the future” and could hurt the UK’s image “as a place to invest” around the world.

Mr. Street said that the costs were “escalating,” but he also said that he was working on a new way to pay for the project that would involve the private sector more.

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