North and Midlands to share £4.7bn transport fund after HS2 leg scrapped

UK

The prime minister has revealed how some of the money from abandoning the HS2 northern leg will be reallocated.

Northern England will get £2.5bn and the Midlands £2.2bn after plans to run the high-speed line to the North were scrapped last year.

The cash will go to a “local transport fund” to help towns, rural areas and smaller cities.

Councils and local authorities will decide how to spend the money, the government said. For example using it to mend potholes, build roads, improve mass transit or renovate bus stations.

The announcement comes as Rishi Sunak holds a cabinet meeting in northern England on Monday – the location being kept secret for security reasons.

October’s decision not to build HS2 past the Midlands was criticised by those who said it made a mockery of ‘levelling-up’ and ‘Northern Powerhouse’ pledges.

The high-speed track will now run between London and Birmingham, with the Manchester section abandoned after concerns about mounting costs.

More on Hs2

Downing Street said Mr Sunak would tell the cabinet that MPs and ministers must “hold local authorities to account” over how the new money is spent.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper is also expected to give an update on Network North, the overarching £36bn plan to improve roads, rail and buses.

The  tunnel boring machine (TBM), as yet to be given a nickname, before it is lifted into place at the Victoria Road Crossover Box HS2 site, near to Old Oak Common in west London
Image:
Work on the line and tunnels from London to Birmingham is well under way. Pic: PA

Mr Harper said this £4.7bn tranche was a “game changer” that would “improve the daily transport connections that people rely on for years to come”.

The prime minister said it would empower local leaders “to invest in the transport projects that matter most in their communities – this is levelling-up in action”.

“This unprecedented investment will benefit more people, in more places, more quickly than HS2 ever would have done,” Mr Sunak added.

Labour, however, called it a “back of a fag packet plan” and another example of broken promises.

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“The Tories have failed and local people are sick and tired of this government taking them for fools,” said shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh.

“Only the Conservatives could have the brass neck to promise yet another ‘transformation’ of transport infrastructure in the Midlands and North after 14 years of countless broken promises to do just that.”

Ms Haigh said Labour would give “every community the power to demand London-style services, by taking back control over buses and bring our railways back into public ownership as contracts expire”.

The first HS2 trains will run between Birmingham Curzon Street and Old Oak Common in London sometime between 2029 and 2033.

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