Artists impression HS Train HS Ltd c

HS2 has hit a dead end, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak scrapping its Northern leg. Credit: HS2

Sunak cancels HS2, promises ‘Network North’ consolation prize

After weeks of speculation, the Prime Minister confirmed that the high-speed rail project will only go as far as Birmingham.

Instead, Rishi Sunak pledged that the £36bn earmarked for the remaining Northern leg will be reinvested in hundreds of projects to build up transport infrastructure outside London. Speaking to a crowd at the Conservative Party Conference, Sunak dubbed the project “Network North”.

“No other government has ever developed a more ambitious scheme for Northern transport than our Network North,” Sunak said. “This is the right way to level up.”

Under the proposals, Sunak said passengers would be able to travel from Manchester to Bradford in 30 minutes, to Sheffield in 42 minutes, and to Hull in 84. He also pledged to work with local leaders to deliver a £12bn line between Manchester and Liverpool.

Sunak justified the cancellation of HS2 by describing it as a “long-running saga” of repeated delays and rising costs.

“The facts have changed,” Sunak said, addressing those who had initially supported the project. “The right thing to do when the facts change is to have the courage to change direction.”

‘Levelling up is dead’

The ditching of the Northern section of HS2 came as a surprise to nobody, following weeks of speculation that Sunak had been spooked by soaring costs.

Before Sunak even took to the podium on Wednesday, Manchester City Council Leader Bev Craig made her feelings known about the looming HS2 announcement.

“Just a reminder, the Govts [sic] own analysis showed an integrated HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail would: add £9bn to GMs economy each year, add £24bn a year to the North’s economy, create 96,000 jobs…” she tweeted.

“Levelling up is dead.”

According to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, the Prime Minister had decided to nix HS2 without consulting with either himself or Craig first. At a press conference on Tuesday evening, Burnham said: “People are meeting in rooms yards from where we’re standing now about decisions that will affect the future of the North of England for the rest of the century.

“But nobody in government deems that they should pick up the phone to the leader of Manchester city council or to myself… I don’t think that is really any way to treat people,” Burnham continued.

“End this shambles, you can’t take decisions of this magnitude in the way that you’re doing.”

Burnham and Craig had tried to negotiate with Westminster to get the section of HS2 between Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly built, while shelving the airport to Birmingham section.

This would at least allow Northern Powerhouse Rail, the East-West link connecting major Northern cities, to be built.

A host of Manchester companies including Bruntwood and OBI, as well as universities and venues, also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in a bid to convince him not to scrap the line.

“In deciding on the future of HS2 you hold the future prosperity of the North and Midlands in your hands,” the letter said.

Scrapping HS2 would be “a major act of economic self-sabotage and damage [Manchester’s] international standing as a place to do business”, the signees continued.

Reaction following Sunak’s speech was overwhelmingly negative from those in the North. Manchester City Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig said she was prepared to work with government on the Network North plans, but remarked that much of what she had heard so far was “rehashed”. She also urged her fellow Northerners to approach Network North with caution to ensure they weren’t “hoodwinked” by empty promises.

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HS2 will take too long to make a difference we need investment now. This might end up being the right decision.

By Mr Palmer

Whatever the rights and wrongs of HS2 the mismanagement of this project by the Government is staggering, for this alone the PM should hang his head in shame.

By Anonymous

HS2 was flawed the day they decided it wasnt going to Liverpool, a region of over 2 million people and the second largest urban area in the north. We need reliable, affordable, safe and quick trains and trams around and between all northern cities, this is what will help create real long term growth

By GetItBuilt!

A shambles from start and not even to the finish.

So much money and so many years of talk. Nothing but embarrassment and more deficit to show for it.

By Embarrassed John

Surely this is catastrophic for Manchester property development?

Outside of the student sector, what market forces are going to keep Manchester going for the next 25 years?

By Anonymous

I don’t think ‘promises’ quite cut it anymore, they don’t seem to be worth b*gger all to politicians….

By Deja

We’ve lost HS2 and NPR which would have made an incredible difference for local and regional rail in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and more. It would have been huge once all the express trains were removed from the existing lines, allowing us to have incredible services like you find in countries like Germany. But what do we get instead now? Actually, nothing new.

The electrification now promised was promised before. This is not new. It won’t relieve congestion on existing lines and it was already the downgrade from cutting NPR.

A Leeds tram? This was also promised before as part of levelling up funds that have never emerged,. Just like the promised money for Manchester’s Metrolink. Remember those promised lines to Bolton, Stockport etc… they have been sitting on the DfT’s desk since 2019. We were promised the money, but never delivered.

There is mention of a Liverpool to Manchester rail link? No one knows what this is. It won’t be delivered. We have been trying to get two extra platforms at Piccadilly since 2016. That’s 6 years ago.

So no, none of what is promised will have any major impact. Most of it was promised already in addition to HS2. So effectively, we not only don’t get HS2, we don’t get anything new either.

London however gets 100% of what they asked for. They will get two huge stations. A brand new Euston and a brand new Oak Common, which will be really useful for interconnectivity. They never needed HS2 because they already had capacity on their network since they segregated the express trains from local services a long time ago.

Birmingham, a Tory city will get HS2, plus a new local train network, plus tram extensions.

But the North gets 0%


Note it is going to Euston though. So yet again London and its hinterland benefits and the rest of us get a pittance. It won’t take long before there are extra stations on it to serve people working in London, en route.

By Elephant

Good news, the people of Manchester saw no need for this, most people would never use it

By Dh

After announcing nothern power rail what’s actually been started or changed for the north?

By Anonymous

Hard not to go into a political rant about what a misguided decision this is and the sheer Sustained incompetence of the government but in the short term I’ll be interested to see what revisions and changes you can expect to see in Mayfield as a result – land value there must have been significantly linked to this project.

By H

Ha ha Anonymous 1.47..nice try but the fact you read PNW…well done!

By Anonymous

People who voted Tory must be so embarassed right now! Oh well, at least you’ve learned your lesson now!

By Anonymous

My goodness , that’s a surprise! Who on earth could have seen this coming?, I’m both shocked and mortified. Also I don’t care.

By Non plussed

Not sure if I am reading the release from properly but it appears to suggest that some of the money saved might be used to extend the Metrolink to Manchester Airport. Have I hallucinated the existing Metrolink line to the Airport?

By Salfordian

An act of vandalism by a decaying Govt. That said – all the great and the good in the Northern Power Partnership Murison, Osbourne, Lord O’Neill – they should all consider their positions.
As a Lobby Group they have been an abject failure.

By Mancunian

This idiotic and incompetent government have shown utter contempt for Manchester and the north of England in scrapping HS2.

The list of alternative schemes in the “Network North” plan are all things we should already have had, as well as HS2, not instead of. But these will probably not happen, as the Conservative government are probably lying about these too.

Our country is being wrecked by economically illiterate, deceitful, self centered, foolish Tory politicians who have failed to invest in the UK infrastructure, then wonder why our economy and productivity is falling far behind.

We need a General Election NOW!

By Ian Hart

I think if we can get modern, electrified,fast , WCML type trains across the North between Lpool, Mcr, Leeds,Sheffield, Hull, I would be satisfied. We need reliability and comfort instead of the ancient rolling stock we’ve endured for years.
Getting to London in around 1hr 40mins will still be an improvement so it’s not all negative.

By Anonymous

@GetItBuilt!, HS2 was going to Liverpool. It was doing this via NPR. Basically, trains to London would have travelled the NPR high speed line and switch to HS2 before Manchester airport. It would have been just as effective as a direct line. So Liverpool has lost hugely here


Ok anonymous 2.28 pm. Let’s wait for the incoming Labour government to promise they’ll reinstate it . Not going to happen? ..thought not, Much like nothing happened under Labour for the North previously.

By Anonymous

Salfordian. The Met only goes to the outskirts of the airport not actually into
It, and there was a rumour that it was being extended to Hale Village, which he probably thinks is in Surrey.

By Elephant

How can they come to manchester for a conference to announce this? if it wasnt going to happen they needed to announce an elizabeth styled line for the north linking north west/yorkshire and the north east. hope you red wall voting conservatives are happy now. They cant even sort out a decent immigration policy which a lot of you voted them in for. Just xenophobia and no plan.

By Dean

Hope some of this money goes towards the long awaited 2 platforms at Piccadilly, alongside the much needed changes to Oxford Road Station. Cycling infrastructure should also be supported.


The money won’t get spent in full on the northwest…it will be reduced and then spread around the country to fund promises made elsewhere. Reputation-wise who is going to believe the UK gov when they next announce a major project…it will be a case of will they pull the plug or won’t they…this decision impact far beyond HS2. My view is that it was never the best way to deal with transport in the north but once they had committed they should then finish it regardless of the benefits or lack thereof. Doing what you say you are going to do is the basis for how you are viewed by investors. I wouldn’t be surprised if investors are questioning gov commitment to other schemes such as nuclear etc. Farcical.

By Anon

This is the biggest betrayal to Manchester and the North in my lifetime, I dont believe this bunch of Tory liars will spend anything like 36 billion on alternative transport schemes. They are a no.better than snake oil salesmen.

By Anonymous

Just because a consolation prize has been announced, it doesn’t mean any of it will actually happen.

By WayFay

My god what will Manchester do now they will be lost now

By Anonymous

Anyone who actually believes that the “saved” money will be redeployed, just because Sunak stood on a podium and said so genuinely needs their bumps feeling. If you do believe this I have some magic beans for sale that will guarantee you riches beyond your dreams for the crazy price of £500 cash. Drop me a line here if you are keen….

By Grubby Northener

This is the biggest betrayal to Manchester and the North in my lifetime, I dont believe this bunch of Tory liars will spend anything like 36 billion on alternative transport schemes. They are a no better than snake oil salesmen.

By Mike

As other commentators have mentioned, this is the greatest betrayal of the North for a generation. This government was elected on a mandate to deliver levelling-up for the North, supposedly breaking down the red wall. The North was sold a concept of HS2 that would deliver this levelling-up whereby not only would the North receive its share of transport investment; have a transport network to be proud of; plus receive the consequential regeneration benefits around Crewe, Piccadilly and the Manchester city-region but actually the status of Manchester and the North was to be recognised in Whitehall.
Sadly, today represents the death-knell to HS2 and levelling-up. We will have a rapid commuter network between Birmingham, Old Oak Common and Euston whilst the North are left with decrepit transport infrastructure. The circa £19bn of schemes are not even focused solely on the North and instead include spending in the South East and West – how is this levelling up by any means? We need a general election now and a strengthening of democratic checks and balances.

By Anonymous

I think people are forgetting one key thing. This wasn’t meant for tomorrow, it was supposed to be for the future. Now that this has been cancelled, it just shows that the conservative government don’t care about anyone north of the midlands. If they would have got this right, this would have connected the capital of the north and London. This would have made places like Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds etc more attractive because it would have given a quicker way to reach the capital. Also capping fairs at £2 for longer? Manchester has been doing that before you even announced it nation wide. Time for a change

By Anonymous

Rishi what an amazing guy! Can’t wait to get to that powerhouse town of Hull so much quicker!! HS2 should have started in Manchester… Yet again its south over the north and yet another major infrastructure project scrapped. Embarrassing. I worry for the large consultancies with hundreds of staff working on the project.


I’m all for telling it like it is but false promises after false promises after false promises. I think the terms of Northern Powerhouse and Levelling up need to be put to rest. …..clowns to left of me Jokers to the right

By Gerry Rafferty

Red and Blue are both as bad as each other. I remember ‘The Big Bang’ metrolink vision which labour pulled the plug on. Now its the blues turn to ignore the north.


Liverpool is mentioned once in this article. Manchester is mentioned nine times. Liverpool is in such good hands when even the Northern media gives the city its fair share. Even the prospect of a £12 billion pound line to the city can’t break the press OBSESSION with Manc.

By LiverpoolGentleman

Sunak and others say HS2 must be cancelled because as a ‘capitalist’ economy the UK must not borrow to invest, even if there would be an economic return on capital. So why waste this money, which we apparently do not have, on other projects previously rejected or delayed because they did not demonstrate an economic return on capital? Anyway, surely this should be an economic decision and not a party-politics decision.

By Anonymous

Just outside Piccadilly station is a long, long shed designed to clean and repair rail stock. It was built many decades ago – for HS1. This should be a symbol for what will happen to the so-called millions that Sunak “promised” would come to the region? Yeah. Right.

By Anonymous

Elephant the metrolink goes into the airport train station if it went much further it would be on the runway.

By Anonymous

I’ll never understand why HS1, HS2 and HS3/NPH rail aren’t combined onto one system!

I’d have it so HS2 was as originally planned (including going through Sheffield Meadowhall) and the link in North London connecting HS1 and HS2. I’d then have HS2 branching off just before Manchester Airport to Liverpool in a triangle, so you can go from London to Liverpool, London to Manchester and Liverpool to Manchester. I’d then have an underground tunnel at Manchester picadilly so trains go straight through to Leeds (connecting to the Eastern HS2 branch) and onto Hull. By doing this, You’d have one intercity high-speed networking connecting London, Birmingham, East Midlands, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds and Hull. Imagine how great that’d be, worth every penny! If you could then add Bristol & Cardiff and Newcastle up to Edinburgh & Glasgow on that network you’d have a perfect Britain wide high speed network connecting every major hub! Most importantly you’d free up rail services for local commuter trains as well! Oh and did I mention being able to grab a train from the North to France/Netherlands?

One can dream eh!


Anyone still buying the meaningless guff that ‘levelling up’ always was? It never was a thing and it never will be a thing.

By Unlevelled for balance

Tory promises eh? 😂
Anyone remember when they announced the Liverpool to Hull upgrade would be completed by 2018? Lie after lie after lie.

By Bernard

Spain has 16 high speed rail lines in operation, totaling 2,500 miles and linking most of its major cities. The UK Gov has cancelled half of a 210 mile line linking its 1st, 2nd & 3rd largest cities.

By induced demand

Thank goodness!
Building 19 century Victorian transportation was a ridiculous idea & was never going to help the North. Post pandemic we can all do business online, the game has changed.

Invest the money in 21 century technology, make the North the power house of green innovation.
Look to our future needs not steam engines.

We have a climate emergency to address, lets get to work.

By Andy

Just a single point which illustrates the cost to the north of this cancellation, Liverpool Freeport has made it clear this will cost it billions of pounds per year in lost trade. Never mind the number of lorries which will remain on the road causing congestion and pollution. Many other examples can be given

By George

Anonymous at 8.16. I know it goes into the station but then there is a two day hike to get to anywhere significant in the airport. I suggest you go to Vienna, and see how people run trains from airports in civilised countries. Guess what! You go through customs walk underground to a platform, jump on a double decker fast train, which is on time and every half an hour, which takes you to trams, underground’s, overgrounds all interconnected. I suppose you do miss out on the view of their equivalent of Wythenshawe civic but you can’t have everything.

By Elephant

Farcical government decision, however….. for every person in the North supporting HS2, there seems to be several people saying we dont need it / waste of money etc. Are rail services in the north really that congested that we need an extra line? In my experience the main congestion is south of Brum. If the promised money for infrastructure improvements does actually materialise (big if) this could be a great diversion of funds for the greater good.

By Cautiously Optimistic

How long before the government announces £36b investment in Crossrail 2?

By Andronicus

Andy 12.36, Climate emergency is an old narrative now…the game has moved on, and this was not about building steam engines for heaven’s sake. You’ll just undermine any semblance of an argument you may have had using such language.

By Anonymous

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