George Osborne David Cameron HS crown copyright

David Cameron and George Osborne criticised Rishi Sunak for cancelling the Northern leg. Credit: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire, Crown copyright via Open Government Licence v3.0,


Sunak’s transport games leave North fending for itself

Once again, we have seen the real view from Westminster – with leaders looking down on the regions and assuming we will dance to any tune they play for us, writes Paul Unger of Place North.

Network North was welcomed cautiously at best. Delivering mass transit in Leeds has been announced and abandoned many times before, as has dualling the A1 in the North East.  There will inevitably be much local government time spent chasing clarity on status and timelines for the transport projects selected for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s list – on which his own cabinet and Network Rail were not consulted.

The fact that Northern towns and cities can still boast thriving universities, developers who are cracking on, and fund managers that are busy spending, shows that delivery is nearly always internally driven by regional doers grappling with a badly dealt hand rather than supported by national policy.

That Leeds, Newcastle-Gateshead, Manchester, Liverpool can perform at all well, despite the austerity and London-weighted funding regime they live under, is a testament to the private sector risk-takers and public sector stalwarts working with missionary zeal to do business together and improve the lives of people who live outside the M25.

Think what could be done if austerity were to end and public services restored to an acceptable level of competence. When you must check to see if the trains are cancelled or the teachers are striking before you agree to a meeting, one understands how far there is to go.

Sunak is on thin ice trying to position himself as the change candidate that the electorate needs – it’s his own party that has been governing for 13 years. Clearly, there is a wide-open door now for Keir Starmer, carrying that figurative Ming vase across the ice rink to get there. If he can produce coherent deliverable plans for growth in the North he will win many friends.

Assuming the rumoured May 2024 general election date turns out to be true, then we have only months to see if Starmer can do this. He has so far avoided committing to the cost of HS2 but he will be under pressure now to come up with a tangible line on Northern prospects after Sunak’s moves made plenty of enemies. David Cameron and George Osborne were among those to criticise the cancellation of the Northern leg as the wrong decision.

Many in the regional property scene were already preparing for a change in government and saw Sunak on borrowed time.

Labour’s job is to put coherence, competence, and capital into transport infrastructure, social housing, carbon reduction, and much more.

On HS2, many weren’t holding their breath anyway. There were so many doubts and budget rethinks by successive prime ministers before Sunak that the Prime Minister only added insult to injury. It was never the one key to unlocking the future, more a significant symbol of hope that levelling up was a real policy movement.

Meanwhile, regional leaders have to carry on regardless, looking after the interests of their areas just as they have done for years – thankful there are businesses just as determined as ever to deliver.

  • Paul Unger is publisher of Place North

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Spot-on article, the north pays for the bad planning, gross over-engineering, unforgivable cost overruns, and managerial incompetence of the strategically irrelevant, inevitably prioritised southern section of HS2. Time for those bees to keep buzzing, they’ve served us well in the past and continue to do so.

By Observer

What Sunak is showing is that we want a fast,reliable, train service across the North,from West to East,before we want high-speed going South.
He is a Leeds MP so must know a fair amount of the mood music.

By Anonymous

The transport schemes included in Network North are predominantly schemes previously cancelled or stalled. These schemes need to be brought forward as well as HS2. We cannot have decent regional and local transport with intercity trains still running on existing infrastructure. Unfortunately Sunak seems hellbent on preventing HS2 extensions to Liverpool (via NPR), Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds by removing safeguarding, reducing Euston to six platforms, and replacing the missing ones with development that will mean the southern terminus would never be able to cope with a reversal of the decision. I am furious and the rest of the country should be too.

By Mancunian

Quite a left wing centred article

By Anonymous

Peculiar comment from Anon:12:25. Cancelling HS2 makes no change to the current progress on the East West railway which is already funded. However, it does rely on the Manchester leg of HS2 to complete the part through to Liverpool. All this is now unplanned due to party conference speech. Not sure of the legality of his change in proposals as none of these have been through due diligence. Hope all impacted organisations take him to court.

By Charles F

Manchester will get another government gift in one way or another. They will still come up smelling of roses.

By L1 rider

Starmer has been relatively silent on this. It is obvious he won’t restart it, if he wins. Rachel Reeves is a Northern MP so there is hope as the last Northern Chancellor did more, at least for Manchester than anyone for decades. I think Cameron and Osborne would have been good eventually for the North. A shame that they were obsessed, with referenda.

By Elephant

@Anonymous 12:25 – Richmond is hardly “Leeds”. Doubt he spends much time up there anyway. Too busy entertaining his fellow toffs down in west London.

By Anonymous

@anonymous I didn’t realise it was specifically left wing to be critical of cancelling a major infrastructure project. The commentary outside of this isn’t anything not expected to happen at the election, look at the polls

By Levelling Up Manager

Neither side have a great track record for delivering infrastructure in the north. One could say the conservatives have delivered the electrification of the Bolton line and some of the metrolink expansion. But dropping HS2 is a mistake. A big week ahead for Labour coming up.


Tories are libertarian anarchists: they believe that ME is what matters and so-called societies or communities are a Communist or Christian invention. North England (or the north of England) is the wasteland between real England (the South) and Scotland. Northern cannot event talk ‘properly’. That is how stupid they are.

By Anonymous

A thoughful analysis (summary and explanation) of what is happening in our PLACE (North England).

By James Yates

Just one massive implication of this decision Liverpool Freeport has announced that they will lose billions in trade , never mind the number of lorries on the road causing congestion and pollution . There are many other examples

By George

I doubt the General Election will be May 2024. More likely that they hang on until close to the last minute. No doubt many Manco-centric projects announced before then, meanwhile in Lancashire our politicians haven’t even managed to deliver a combined authority yet.

By Michael Turner

@Anonymous 1:50pm – within six months of an election defeat he’d have resigned his seat and would be based across New York and London, rejoining the global citizen class.

By Michael Turner

Manchester has been to sure of itself for far too long
The ignorance has been overwhelming as few new builds and it thinks it’s Wall St .
Enjoy the come down .

By Anonymous

Will the LCR receive anything more than just the link to Manchester?
What will this entail, a new railway line new stations or terminus in Liverpool?
Will there be an extension of Merseyrail or heavens permit a tram system of some type to link up the missing part of the Merseyrail network and the airport?

By Liverpool4Progress

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