May 20, 2024

Rishi Sunak unveils ‘Network North’ to replace HS2

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the HS2 rail link between the West Midlands and Manchester will be scrapped.

Instead, he unveiled Network North, a major investment project to improve rail connectivity and roads in the north of England and Wales.

Claiming the “facts have changed”, he promised that every penny of the £36 billion saved from HS2 will be reinvested in hundreds of new transport projects.

Speaking at his first Tory party conference, he said: “Every region outside of London will receive the same or more government investment than they would have done under HS2, with quicker results.”

He said with Network North, it will be possible to get from Manchester to the new station in Bradford in 30 minutes, Sheffield in 42 minutes and to Hull in 84 minutes “on a fully, electrified line”.

HS2 trains will run from London Euston to central Birmingham in 49 minutes, 30 minutes faster than the existing service and from Euston to Manchester in 1hr 40 minutes, 27 minutes faster.

Clive Wratten, CEO of the BTA, said: “Scrapping such an important leg of HS2 is a deplorable act of carelessness on behalf of the Government. Cancelling the key northern hub makes a mockery of the levelling-up agenda and doesn’t help the capacity issues some routes are facing.

“Once again, connected business travel across the UK is sacrificed by those in power negligent of the needs of those outside London. Although the business travel industry has changed since the pandemic, with more hybrid and virtual events taking place, in-person travel is the beating heart of our industry.

“We are on the verge of a climate crisis. Car hire is 22% up. Domestic air travel has increased. Rail is no longer the first choice. Continuous capacity challenges are forcing up costs, with service issues a consistent kick in the teeth to business travellers.

“All rail infrastructure projects must be protected through investment. The additional £36 million will greatly help towards connecting the corners of our country and we as an industry should welcome the commitment the government is taking to connect the north.

“We urge Sunak to continue ensuring the north is seamlessly connected in an eco-friendly manner and not isolated”.

ITM CEO, Scott Davies, added: “ITM recognises the need to balance public sector finances, but there still needs to be regional infrastructure investment as the strategic importance of rail to the business travel industry is only set to increase.

“The UK needs significantly more efficient rail connectivity regionally and nationally not only to support economic growth and job creation, but also to drive more sustainable travel to meet the government’s net zero targets. 

“The money saved by scrapping phase 2 therefore needs to be invested in improving regional rail connectivity especially in the north of England.”