Sunak set to axe HS2 Manchester leg


Rishi Sunak will finally announce the cancellation of the Manchester leg of HS2, with money for local transport projects to soften the blow, reports have suggested.

With the Conservative Party holding its annual conference in Manchester, the BBC reported that the prime minister will use his speech this morning to confirm that the high-speed rail line from the West Midlands to Manchester will not be built and set out a range of what it called 'alternative' projects in the north of England and Wales.

The fate of the delayed London Euston terminal remains unclear. It has previously been reported that HS2 will now end at the Old Oak Common interchange in North West London.

Political leaders in the Midlands and the North have already reacted furiously to reports that the high speed line will be curtailed.

The BBC reported that Tory West Midlands mayor Andy Street has cancelled a trip abroad to remain at the party's conference and could resign.

Ministers are already arguing that local transport projects will be better value for money and can be delivered more quickly.

Defence secretary Grant Shapps suggested on Wednesday morning that to take 'the tens of billions of pounds and pour those into, for example, other very fast or high speed train links in the north, other smaller, local transport projects' might be a better use of the money.

In reality there is unlikely to be any immediate divident from cancelling the Manchester leg of of HS2 as the timing of planned construction work means that any reduction in government borrowing is likely to be years into the future.

A report in The Sunday Times this weekend said that Mr Sunak is preparing to ‘invest’ – government-speak for spend – up to £700m in bus services across the country.

Additional funding for buses, which could be in the next Parliament, would go some way to reinstating the money diverted from former prime minister Boris Johnson’s £3bn Bus Back Better plan to be spent instead on keeping services going during and after the Covid pandemic.

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