At the Conservative Party conference, earlier this month, Rishi Sunak announced the cancellation of HS2. Although the construction of the London to Birmingham leg will continue until its completion, the rest of the line connecting The North to Birmingham, and London by extension, will be scrapped. Sunak pledges to “reinvest every penny” into improving the transport network across The North and The Midlands.
The government is said to have £36 billion to invest in what is being coined ‘Network North’ by discarding the remainder of HS2. Sunak has made some big promises regarding ‘Network North’ which will involve: faster fully electrified train lines between Manchester, Hull, Sheffield and Bradford; a quicker link between Manchester and Liverpool; investment in the A1, A2, A5 and M6 and a tram in Leeds. He has also pledged to develop the West Midlands metro and electrify the North Wales train network. Perhaps all of this does sound like a better investment of £36 billion than simply increasing connection to London; especially when the project has already been ongoing for 11 years and phase one is yet to be completed. However, the question must be asked whether the reinvestment of this money in The North and The Midlands will be a reality or whether it will end up another phony Conservative promise.
The question must be asked whether the reinvestment of this money in The North and The Midlands will be a reality or whether it will end up another phony Conservative promise.
Greater Manchester Mayor and Labour party member Andy Burnham is less than enthusiastic about Sunak’s decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2. He has stated that the government are “disrespecting people across the whole of the North”. Pointing out how revealing this is that the government “think they can treat the north of England differently to the way they treat other parts of the country,”. Burnham also views Sunak’s outlining of ‘Network North’ as a farce, identifying it as a “transport plan patched together in hotel rooms at a party conference with no input with northern leaders or mayors”.
Burnham also views Sunak’s outlining of ‘Network North’ as a farce
As Burnham rightly points out even if ‘Network North’ was to be a success it is still a policy enforced on The North by those in The South. Although transport between London and the rest of the country can still be improved with the scrapping of HS2, it cannot be ignored that the divide between The North and The South remains firmly in place. The South continues to hold the privilege to call the shots that directly affect the everyday life of those in The North. Irrespective of reasons for scrapping HS2 and how the consequences of this decision pan out, one thing is for sure- the Conservative decision to scrap HS2 has further widened The North/South divide.