‘Shambolic’ Rishi Sunak cancels northern leg of HS2

Rishi Sunak’s approach to Levelling Up is branded ‘shambolic’ by a Liverpool business leader as the Prime Minister scraps the northern leg of HS2. Tony McDonough reports

Rishi Sunak has cancelled the HS2 rail project north of Birmingham. Image supplied by HS2


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has scrapped the remaining northern section of the HS2 rail project leaving just the London to Birmingham leg still intact.

In a long-trialled decision, seen as a betrayal by political and business leaders across the north of England, Mr Sunak confirmed his decision in his address to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

Instead, the Prime Minister said the £36bn that would have been spent on the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 will be invested into other local transport projects.

However, this pledge has been greeted with much scepticism in Liverpool city region and across the north. By cancelling the remainder of HS2 the PM is reneging on the Conservative manifesto and many are unconvinced about the latest promises.

Mr Sunak told the conference hall: “I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project. In its place we’ll reinvest every single penny, £36bn, into hundreds of transport projects in the North, Midlands, and across the country.

“Every region outside of London will receive the same or more Government investment than they would have done under HS2, with quicker results.”

Ending the transport section of the speech, he added: “I challenge anyone to tell me with a straight face that all of that isn’t what the north really needs.”

Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber, was scathing about the Prime Minister’s commitments to the region.

“Businesses in Liverpool city region need certainty and connectivity to make investment decisions,” said Mr Cherpeau. “The stop-start nature of the HS2 process and the shambolic approach to levelling-up has provided neither.

“A high-speed link between Birmingham and London certainly offers zero impetus to their ambitions.”


Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses the 2023 Conservative Party conference in Manchester


Upgrades to the rail connection between Liverpool and Manchester, now rebranded as ‘Network North’ was cautiously welcomed by Mr Cherpeau. He added he was “keen to hear more details.”

And he said: “While no infrastructure plan should be given a blank cheque, a city region the size of Liverpool requires a world-class transport network to improve connectivity with all corners of the UK and beyond.

“Business owners want to know that the Government has a coherent plan to improve vital infrastructure that will directly support their businesses through the smoother movement of freight and people.

“Moreover, they will want to hear a solid commitment from the government that it will actually deliver on these latest investment promises after so many false dawns.”

HS2 will run from Euston station in London to the West Midlands, with a station at Old Oak Common in west London and Birmingham Interchange.

There will then be branches to central Birmingham and Handsacre, near Lichfield – where HS2 trains for Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland will join the existing West Coast Main Line. These will run slower than on the HS2 line.

HS2 trains will run from Euston to central Birmingham in 49 minutes, 30 minutes faster than now. They will run from Euston to Manchester in 1hr 40 minutes, 27 minutes faster than now.

Political and business leaders in Liverpool city region and Cheshire have claimed in the last few days the cancelling of the HS2 link to the North West will see the loss of billions of pounds of potential investment.

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram is particularly concerned about the impact on the LCR Freeport which went live earlier this year. Its success partly depends on more rail capacity being freed up for freight, something HS2 would have delivered.

In recent days Mr Rotheram has insisted that diverting investment onto other projects will make it much harder to create Northern Powerhouse Rail, a high-speed line across the north of England.

He said: “Without the Manchester leg of HS2 there is no Northern Powerhouse Rail. The Prime Minister’s choice this week will condemn millions of people across the north to contend with creaking infrastructure for generations.


Paul Cherpeau
Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. Picture by Gareth Jones
Steve Rotheram
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram. Picture by Tony McDonough


“HS2 was always a bad name. Its value was as much in creating additional capacity for passenger and freight services as it was in cutting journey times… We won’t be getting high speed without the HS2 infrastructure – the two were intrinsically linked.”

LBN reported a few days ago that the loss of the northern section of HS2 would cost the Cheshire economy an estimated £2bn a year in lost investment.

In a statement issued following the Prime Minister’s speech, Cheshire and Warrington LEP said: “The decision to cancel HS2 is a major blow for Cheshire and Warrington, costing its economy of £2bn billion a year.

READ MORE: £80m Headbolt Lane station to open this week

“HS2 would have had a transformational impact across Cheshire and Warrington, creating 27,000 new jobs, delivering 6m sq ft of new commercial floor space and 25,000 new homes.

“We will now be seeking more detail and looking carefully at the Prime Minister’s promise to recycle the £36bn that he says will be saved from HS2 and how the projects he announced will help Cheshire and Warrington.

“Committing to investment in major infrastructure pays dividends. While large-scale projects will always be challenging to deliver, they bring significant long-term economic benefits.”

Bill Addy, chief executive  of Liverpool BID Company, representing more than 800 businesses in Liverpool city centre, also said: “If there’s one thing we know in business it’s that confidence comes from delivery, a proven track record in service and getting the job done.

“A lot of promises have been made to Liverpool when it comes to rail, but we are yet to see any real delivery. After a year of chaos on the rail, the impact is felt on our high streets and our boardrooms, it has hit confidence and the city economy from tourism to manufacturing.

“Infrastructure is a critical ingredient in the health of our cities, the engine fuel of our economy, and their interconnectedness has long been a missing piece in the puzzle of the UK.

“We have ambitions for a green and sustainable economy and that means having an affordable and accessible public transport system. 

“We need viable and ambitious plans to support businesses across the north to help them continue to create jobs, to pay taxes and support public services.

“We have been offered no specific plans, no specific timeline and no promise of impact. We urge whomever has control of the budget over the next decade to put credible plans in place that are delivered.”

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.