Sunak takes a different line north

By Ged Henderson

05 Oct 2023

Hs2

The decision to axe the northern leg of the HS2 high-speed rail project has been widely condemned by business and political leaders in the north of England and nationally.

As had been widely anticipated Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the scrapping of the route between Birmingham and Manchester in his keynote speech to his party conference yesterday.

The high-speed rail link between Birmingham and Manchester – seen by many to be crucial to levelling up and a vital part of work to improve connectivity in the north – has been shelved over cost concerns.

The project was originally budgeted at £30bn, but the cost is estimated to have soared higher than £100bn, even after the Leeds leg was scrapped.

The PM said the move would free up £36bn – with every penny to be spent on “hundreds of new transport projects in the north and the midlands and across the country”.

These include a ‘Network North’ project to join up northern cities by rail. Mr Sunak also spoke of upgrading the M6 motorway.

He told the Conservative conference in Manchester: “Our plan will drive far more growth and opportunity here in the north than a faster train to London ever would.”

And he added: “No government has ever developed a more ambitious scheme for northern transport than our new network north. This is the right way to drive growth and spread opportunity across our country, to level up.”

Under the new plan HS2 will switch to using existing West Coast mainline track from Birmingham to Manchester, meaning it will not be high-speed.

The Prime Minister told his audience: “HS2 trains will still run here to Manchester and journey times will be cut between Manchester, Birmingham, London by 30 minutes.”

In Lancashire there has been widespread belief that the HS2 line would have a positive impact on the county’s economic prospects.

The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has previously said productivity gains from the impact of HS2 services to the area could help provide an extra £600m for the county.

And last March a document was published looking to steer development in the area around Preston’s city centre railway station, aiming to capitalise on its transport links by bringing in jobs and investment.

The Preston Station Quarter centres on an area around the railway station as well as the areas around the Fishergate Centre, County Hall and along Corporation Street to the university.

Part of the argument for investment was the station becoming  a main stop for HS2 services in the future.

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, said there was “frustration and anger” over the decision to scrap the line. He said: “It always seems that people here where I live and where I kind of represent can be treated as second class citizens when it comes to transport.”

Henri Murison, from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, described the decision as a “national tragedy - economically at least”.

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s director of policy, Chris Fletcher, said: “We have been promised a lot before and nothing has been done and this latest attempt from government will be treated with cynicism and scepticism by a lot of people.

“HS2 was a major investment opportunity for the UK that would unburden a worn-out network already at over capacity; boost the country’s net zero ambitions and open up labour markets and job opportunities on a scale like never before.

“Plus it was also a cornerstone of Northern Powerhouse Rail. Network North has to deliver all this and more and in a shorter timescale if this government is to have any credibility and successive government’s performance on this over the last decade has not been great.”

Logistics UK’s policy director Kate Jennings expressed the disappointment of the sector group’s members at the news of the cancellation: 

She said: “HS2 was a vital plan to unlock economic growth across the UK – the additional capacity across the rail network which it would have released was critical to expanding rail freight opportunities and enabling a shift from road to rail to cut carbon emissions.


“Putting high speed trains on the existing line between Birmingham and Manchester will make today’s rail freight capacity issues even worse.”

And Robert White, chief executive at law firm Brabners, said: “Much of the north’s future potential – and closing the productivity gap – lies in harnessing its talent and generating inclusive growth through emerging industries.

“This can only happen with a long-term approach that transcends political cycles – including in the national approach to connectivity and infrastructure.

“Our own research highlights an increased appetite among UK and international funds to invest in the north but the uncertainty surrounding long-term decision making at a national level, and in this case the decision to abandon the northern leg of HS2, has the potential to significantly impact that appetite.”

Meanwhile, in a statement the High Speed Rail Group described the announcement as “a devastating blow to our industry and our whole economy.”

It added: “For 15 years we have worked with the government to develop this project - their project - taking it from a concept to construction. Companies have invested in people, skills and equipment on the back of it with some even relocating in anticipation of it being completed.

 

“It is true the costs of the project have risen over those 15 years. In recent years inflation has been rampant in the UK economy and the construction sector has been impacted far more than most. 

“But the principal cause of any real term cost increases lies in the chopping and changing of the project’s scope, with today’s news being the fourth major change by government in just three years.

“As any project manager will tell you, the cheapest way to deliver is against a fixed scope without constant changes. This is the biggest and most damaging U-turn in the history of UK infrastructure.

“What we have now is a plan for a railway that will not deliver the transformational benefits the north of England needs. Indeed, the solution proposed by the Prime Minister is a recipe for disaster. 

“Merging HS2 trains onto existing lines at Birmingham will create a huge bottleneck, akin to the M40 merging onto an A-road and then a country lane - rather than the M6. Rail connectivity to the north will be worse than it is today.”

In his speech Rishi Sunak also proposed a new Advanced British Standard for education in England, which will bring together A-Levels and T-Levels

They will be all for all students in England, and will typically include five subjects. All students will sit it and they will all study some form of English and maths to 18.

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

Latest news

1

Forbes makes Manchester move Forbes Manchester

Forbes makes Manchester move

15 Apr 2024

2

Blackpool approves plans for pair of apartment complexes New South Promenade Apartments Visuals

Blackpool approves plans for pair of apartment complexes

12 Apr 2024

3

Distinguished engineer takes senior role at Lancaster University Rebecca Lingwood

Distinguished engineer takes senior role at Lancaster University

11 Apr 2024

4

International building supplies firm to open new plant in Preston New Kerakoll Group Premises Visuals

International building supplies firm to open new plant in Preston

11 Apr 2024

5

What to consider before you invest Charles Higham

What to consider before you invest

18 Apr 2024

Hwc 2024 Email Signature 980x120
Background image for hub sign up block

LBV Hub

Reach 50,000 members of the Lancashire business community

Post your news
Post your events
Post your offers
Company profile
Social reach
Magazine coverage
Sign-up
Events
Health and Wellbeing Conference 2024
Hwc 2024 Social Media 1200px 1
Networking
23 Apr 2024

Health and Wellbeing Conference 2024

Crow Wood Hotel, Burnley , BB12 0RT

08:30 - 13:00

Help to Grow Management Course
HTG2.png.png
LBV Hub Seminars
15 Apr 2024 - 17 Jul 2024

Help to Grow Management Course

Preston Campus , Preston , PR1 2HE

09:30 - 14:00

Business Networking in Burnley - BNI Kudos
EVENT LISTING BNI Kudos.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
18 Apr 2024

Business Networking in Burnley - BNI Kudos

Prairie Sports Village, Windemere Avenue, Burnley, BB10 2FU

06:45 - 08:30

Cyber Secure 360: Safeguarding Your Digital World
CyberSecure 360 LBV-32.png.png
LBV Hub Seminars
18 Apr 2024 - 18 Apr 2024

Cyber Secure 360: Safeguarding Your Digital World

Accrington Stanley, Accrington, BB5 5BX

08:30 - 12:00

The Pro Club
Untitled design (6).png.png
LBV Hub Networking
19 Apr 2024

The Pro Club

Fraser House, Lancaster, LA1 4XQ

09:30 - 12:30

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Infinity
EVENT LISTING BNI Infinity.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
19 Apr 2024

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Infinity

Hampton by Hilton, 2 Frontier Ave, Blackburn, BB1 3AL

06:30 - 08:30

Business Networking in Preston- BNI Brunch
EVENT LISTING SIZING Brunch .png.png
LBV Hub Networking
19 Apr 2024

Business Networking in Preston- BNI Brunch

Samlesbury Preston Hotel, Preston New Road, Preston, PR5 0UL

09:30 - 11:00

St Catherine’s Corporate Skydive
Corporate SkyDive.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Fundraisers
21 Apr 2024

St Catherine’s Corporate Skydive

Black Knights Parachute Centre, Lancaster, LA2 0YD

12:00 - 16:30

Business Networking in Chorley - BNI Endeavour
EVENT LISTING SIZING Endeavour.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
23 Apr 2024

Business Networking in Chorley - BNI Endeavour

Oak Royal, Bury Lane, Chorley, PR6 8SW

06:30 - 08:30

HR Complete Training Programme: Equality and Diversity
Picture1.png.png
LBV Hub Webinar
23 Apr 2024

HR Complete Training Programme: Equality and Diversity

Online (Zoom)

09:30 - 11:00

Emergency First Aid at Work
Chamber Logo1.png.png
LBV Hub Seminars
23 Apr 2024

Emergency First Aid at Work

FGH Training, 3rd Floor, Storey House, White Cross Business Park, Lancaster, LA1 4XQ

09:00 - 16:00

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Vista
EVENT LISTING SIZING Vista.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
23 Apr 2024

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Vista

Hampton by Hilton, 2 Frontier Ave, Blackburn, BB1 3AL

06:45 - 08:30

Advertise with us

Reaching 50,000 members, our print, digital and event platforms offer a fantastic way to raise your business profile and help you grow.

Find out more Lbv115 Online Graphic
Subscribe now

Weekly news bulletin