Published at 13:26 on Wednesday 4th October 2023
Tags: HS2, DfT, Department for Transport, Network North, Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister, High-Speed Rail, Northern Powerhouse Rail

The Government says HS2 services will still operate to Manchester, but over the classic lines via Crewe. HS2

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has confirmed that the long-planned second phase of HS2 from the West Midlands to Manchester has been scrapped.

The announcement came during the Conservative Party conference, and follows on from the downscaling of the project in 2021, when the eastern leg of HS2 beyond Toton to Sheffield and Leeds was scrapped. The latest move confirms that the core HS2 network will now consist purely of the Old Oak Common to Birmingham Cursor Street section, plus the link from the 'delta' triangular junction to the WCML at Hansacre, near Lichfield. The door has not been closed on extending from Old Oak Common to Euston, which it is said remains a commitment in the coming years and will be run by a new management team.

From a services point of view, trains will operate purely on HS2 between Old Oak Common and Birmingham, while other HS2 services will continue to Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland, by using the WCML connection and then the existing slower, so-called 'classic' lines to their destination. In essence, Phase 1 is too far along with the construction to cancel, and while it will bring improvements, Birmingham will be 30 minutes closer to the capital, while Manchester will be 27 minutes faster (apparently), there will be many that now ask the question is the smaller, phase one only, really worth it? In addition, pushing HS2 services onto the existing network, north of Lichfield, will also negate some of the 'capacity benefits' that HS2 was suppose to bring to the National Network.

In his speech to the Party Conference, Rishi Sunak said that he was "ending this long running saga. I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project, and in its place we will reinvest every single penny, £36 billion, in hundreds of new transport projects in the North and the Midlands". Mr Sunak said that the move would made a 'real difference' across the Nation, ironically what HS2 was suppose to do. However details on the full extent of projects to be looked at or funded are still being released (see here for details), although £12 billion to link up Manchester and Liverpool has been protected, but this will not be with high-speed rail, elsewhere funding is said to be allocated to build the Midlands Rail Hub, extend West Midlands Metro, build the Leeds tram, electrify the North Wales main Line, upgrade the Cumbrian Coast route through Workington and bring back the Don Valley Line in Sheffield. Most of these are high profile projects that campaigners have been seeking for some time, and for some, will be seen as nothing more than shoring up support in the popularity stakes.

However, despite Mr Sunak's guarantee that £36 billion will be put into transport projects, these are not all just rail orientated, with some of the money going to upgrade A roads, the M6, the Shipley bypass and 70 other road schemes. Mr Sunak branded the revised plans 'Network North' in his speech to Conservatives, adding that every region outside London will receive the same, or more, Government investment than they would have done under HS2.

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