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Rishi Sunak ended the farcical ‘HS2 drama’ by scrapping the bungled project’s northern leg.

The Prime Minister used his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference to announce he would divert the £36 billion saved into hundreds of transport projects across the Midlands and the North.

He said HS2 was the product of a failed ‘old consensus’, insisting that ‘levelling up’ the Midlands and the North will be delivered more quickly and effectively without it.

But it sparked a backlash among HS2 supporters after business leaders and several senior Tories lined up before the announcement to urge the PM not to scrap the Birmingham to Manchester leg.

Writing in the Mail last week, Boris Johnson spoke of his ‘suppressed fury’ at his successor’s decision to ditch HS2’s northern spur. He said terminating the line at Birmingham would be a ‘betrayal of the North’.

Rishi Sunak ended the farcical ‘HS2 drama’ by scrapping the bungled project’s northern leg

Fellow former PMs David Cameron and Theresa May also urged Mr Sunak to complete the line up to Manchester.

Mr Cameron tweeted that Mr Sunak’s decision was ‘the wrong one’, adding: ‘It will help to fuel the views of those who argue that we can no longer think or act for the long-term as a country, that we are heading in the wrong direction.’

Boris Johnson replied: ‘I agree’.

Labour said the decision was ‘a colossal symbol of Conservative failure’.

Unveiling his ‘Network North’ transport plan, which focuses on East-West rather than North-South connections, Mr Sunak insisted it would be an ‘abdication of leadership’ not to scrap HS2’s northern leg amid costs that have soared from £30 billion to an estimated £100 billion.

The new plan will see hundreds of miles of rail track being laid, upgraded and reopened to increase services and speed up journey times between dozens of towns and cities.

Hundreds of miles of roads will be built, expanded and resurfaced across 70 schemes to tackle congestion and make car journeys smoother. And a £2 cap on single bus fares will remain in place across the country until at least the end of next year.

Mr Sunak said: ‘I challenge anyone to tell me with a straight face that all of that isn’t what the North really needs.

‘Our plan will drive far more growth and opportunity here in the North than a faster train to London ever would… East-West links are more important than North-South ones. No government has ever developed a more ambitious scheme for Northern transport than our new Network North. This is the right way to drive growth and spread opportunity across our country. To level up.’ The Tory mayor for Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, welcomed the move. He told LBC: ‘Normal people that I speak to say that the money, the £36 billion that has been talked about, is much better spent on other projects that don’t just benefit Manchester.’

There had been fears the PM would also stop the HS2 line at Old Oak Common, six miles from central London, but he confirmed it will run into London Euston, connecting the capital with Birmingham. Under the new route, after HS2 trains reach Birmingham they will join the existing West Coast Main Line at Handsacre in Staffordshire and travel up to Manchester and Glasgow.

Euston to Birmingham will take 49 minutes – 30mins faster than the current time. Euston to Manchester will take 1hr 40mins – 27mins faster – and it will take 1hr 45mins to reach Liverpool, 26mins quicker.

However, critics say failing to lay more track north of Birmingham means much-needed capacity will not be created, with the West Coast Main Line already ‘effectively full’.

A new £2 billion station will be built at Bradford, with a new connection to Manchester, reducing journey times between the cities to 30 minutes. In total, 21 road schemes in the North will benefit, as well as ten in the Midlands and 39 in the South.

Originally, every pound spent on HS2 was set to deliver £2.30 of benefits back to the taxpayer. But this has fallen to as little as 80p for every pound spent.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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