Rishi Sunak announces scrapping of HS2
Rishi Sunak has vowed that the public will benefit from better transport “quicker and faster” now that he has scrapped the northern leg of HS2.
The Prime MInister defended his decision to cut back the rail project as he met voters while the Labour Party holds its conference in Liverpool.
Mr Sunak visited a Currys repair and customer service centre in Newark, Notts, yesterday where he answered questions.
The PM told staff: “We’re going to take every penny of that £36billion [saved] and we’re going to spend it on transport across the country – on bus, on road, on rail, on all the forms of transport that you use every day.
“We’re going to deliver it far quicker so that you can see the benefits faster.
READ MORE Axing HS2 will cost thousands of jobs
“We’re going to see it across more parts of our country. I think that is the right thing to do for the long term. There were lots of communities, including many in the East Midlands, who would have seen worse service to London as a result of HS2 being built, because those services will either have been slower or will have been reduced. That won’t happen now.”
Mr Sunak said HS2 was “disruptive” for the region but the axe meant people could buy back properties that had been compulsorily purchased.
The Tory leader also said that ministers were looking at removing “safeguarding provisions” which prevented development in areas that had been earmarked for the high-speed line’s “potential route in the future”.
Speaking later on BBC Radio 4’s Jeremy Vine Show, the PM suggested the projects that he said might receive funding as a result of making cuts to HS2 were “illustrative”.
Mr Sunak added they were not necessarily the schemes that would finally benefit from extra investment.
Pressed on why he did not cancel the now-scrapped HS2 northern section from Birmingham to Manchester when he had been Chancellor, Mr Sunak said that the enterprise had been reviewed in 2020 before he took on that role, and “this was a project that the previous Prime Minister was very keen on”.
Asked if it was a mistake to suggest the money saved could instead be used to extend the Metrolink tram network to Manchester Airport when that has already opened, Mr Sunak replied: “No.
“Well, look, there’s a range of illustrative projects that could be funded. But ultimately it’s going to be local leaders are in charge.”
Quizzed about a suggestion that rail services between Sheffield and Leeds might be quadrupled to 20 trains every hour, Mr Sunak said: “I’m not sure I recognise the numbers”.
He meanwhile insisted that journey times are being improved across the North. In her speech at the Labour conference, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves claimed that the Government had “lost control” of HS2. The Leeds West MP added: “The question must be how was it ever allowed to get to that point?
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“If I were in the Treasury, I would have been on the phone to the chief executive of HS2 non-stop.
“Demanding answers and solutions on behalf of taxpayers, businesses and commuters.
“But, with this Government, this has become a pattern.
“When it comes to getting things built and projects delivered, Britain has become the sick man of Europe, with HS2 coming in at 10 times the cost of the French equivalent.”
Ms Reeves went on: “That is why our Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh will commission an independent expert inquiry into HS2 to learn the lessons for the future.”
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