‘Levelling up? My a**e’ says Burnham over rumours govt will pull HS2 Northern leg
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt are discussing ditching the high-speed rail project after it reaches Birmingham, according to The Independent. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham was not amused.
“It’s coming up 10 years since [George] Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ speech and the Tories are set to scrap the last of his rail pledges,” Burnham tweeted. “The result? The southern half of England gets a modern rail system and the North left with Victorian infrastructure.”
It’s coming up 10 years since Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” speech and the Tories are set to scrap the last of his rail pledges.
The southern half of England gets a modern rail system and the North left with Victorian infrastructure.
— Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) September 14, 2023
He added later: “The North-South divide is no accident. It’s national policy.”
The discussion about abandoning the Manchester leg of HS2 comes as costs continue to rise for the much-delayed project. The Independent said it had seen stats that cancelling the Northern part of the project would save the government up to £34bn.
Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, warned the government against cancelling the second HS2 phase.
“Any decision to curtail this project any further would do serious damage to the government’s relationship with the business community, both Northern-based businesses and inward investors, who have made long-term investment decisions based on previous promises,” Murison said.
“Cancelling Phase 2b would also make it impossible to improve East-West connectivity across the North as promised in the Integrated Rail plan. It would remove the most critical remaining section of Northern Powerhouse Rail between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport which is vital for getting passengers from Liverpool across the Pennines,” he continued.
“Given that Phase 1, the most expensive bit of the route, is already underway and that the strongest benefit-cost ratios are found in the Northern sections, it makes no sense to stop now,” Murison said.
He concluded: “Our country’s inability to deliver infrastructure, whether it’s hospitals or rail lines, is a huge problem for raising productivity long-term and our global reputation. The shadow chancellor has already committed to treating to day-to-day spending differently to capital spending to support long-term economic growth – the government should do the same.”