Last week UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed the HS2 high speed rail route between Manchester and Birmingham would not go-ahead. The decision has frustrated businesses and infuriated Northern Mayors and residents, jilted by the cancelled route.

It was always a tricky project. Tunneling through ancient lands, a budget which spiraled out of control fairly early on, the destruction of homes and natural habitats.

Tricky or not, it was going ahead. The aim of HS2 was to free-up space on Victorian rail lines for freight and essential local services, to deliver better access to cities in the North, and for the North – as well as reduce road freight.

Stamped as a ‘leveling up’ project, it’s a bitter pill for the communities it was designed to lift. Sunak has promised to ‘redirect HS2 funding transport across the North and Midlands,’ which has full support from his Transport Secretary Mark Harper. “We’ve taken every penny of the savings from HS2 – £36billion – and we’ve set out how they’re going to be spent in the parts of the country where HS2 was going to be spent… I think it’s very clear, and happy to be judged on it,” defends Harper.

However, the governments new promises aren’t appeasing the  UK electorate, or its Northern mayors.

“Scrapping HS2 rips the heart out of Northern Powerhouse Rail. Basically it would leave the north of England with Victorian infrastructure probably for the rest of this century,” says Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who argues his city is being disrespected.

Native of the North (Yorkshire) and Economic Analyst here at Ti Insight, Nathaniel Donaldson, comments: “These Tories don’t care about the good folk of the North, and actually nor does the whole political system.

“When it comes to infrastructure we’re used to getting the scraps. But as an economist it’s all a result of the Government green book which uses a cost benefit planning model. London projects always get chosen because it’s so densely populated and the country is so unequal that London will always seem to produce the best result when the government economists evaluate possible projects across the country.”

In 2013, HS2 was estimated to cost £37.5 billion (in 2009 prices) but the sums have continued to go-up. A budget of £55.7 billion for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015 but some reports suggest costs have now surpassed £100 billion, thanks to some recent inflation rises.

How will it impact UK logistics?

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

 “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.

“Logistics businesses need detailed confirmation that the funding previously ringfenced for the construction of the Birmingham-Manchester stretch of HS2 will be reallocated to upgrading transport links across the UK, including across the north of England and the Midlands. This cancellation is a huge disappointment to businesses keen to reduce their environmental impact and reduce road congestion while still delivering for customers.”

So what projects is the UK government promising to spend the HS2 funding on?

Here’s some of them, see the full list here.

  • £2.5 billion to deliver a new mass transit system in West Yorkshire
  • £3 billion for upgraded and electrified lines between Manchester and Sheffield, Sheffield and Leeds, Sheffield and Hull, and Hull-Leeds
  • Nearly £4 billion more funding for local transport in the North’s six city regions
  • £12 billion to better connect Manchester to Liverpool
  • Funding the Midlands Rail Hub in full with £1.75 billion, connecting 50 stations and over 7 million people – doubling capacity and frequency
  • Over £1.5 billion guaranteed local transport funding for the new East Midlands Mayor
  • A new £2.2 billion fund for local transport across all areas in the West and East Midlands outside the city regions – smaller cities, counties, towns and countryside
  • Keeping the £2 bus fare until the end of December 2024
  • £1 billion to fund the electrification of the North Wales Main Line

It’s an impressive looking list. But the UK needs complete transport projects, not eloquent prose.

Author: Kirsty Adams

Source: Ti Insights

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