Rishi Sunak confirms HS2’s Manchester leg will be scrapped
One of Rishi Sunak’s predecessors has attacked the decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2 to Manchester, saying the prime minister had “thrown away 15 years of cross-party consensus” and made future infrastructure projects much harder.
Conservative former prime minister David Cameron condemned the decision as losing a “once-in-a-generation opportunity”.
Mr Sunak used his Conservative Party conference speech to promise to put the £36 billion of savings into a raft of other transport schemes.
He also unveiled radical plans to stamp out cigarette-smoking for future generations, announcing plans for a UK smoking ban by raising the legal smoking age by one year every year. It means a 14-year-old today will never legally be able to buy a cigarette.
However, it’s understood another of Mr Sunak’s predecessors, Liz Truss, will vote against the plan, raising the prospect of other right-wingers trying to join her in blocking it.
The PM also pledged to crack down on the sale of disposable vapes to children, saying more must be done to restrict their availability to under-18s.
The Independent first revealed secret talks to scrap the link beyond Birmingham.
Sunak reveals replacement for A-levels
Rishi Sunak has announced his plan to scrap A-levels and replace it with a new qualification called the Advanced British Standard (ABS) aimed at creating the “best education system in the western world”.
But unions dismiss promise £30,000 teacher bonuses:
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 22:01
Homeowners left heartbroken ‘must be compensated’
Residents in a Staffordshire village where HS2 bought up family homes to make way for the line to Manchester have “suffered immensely” and will be “relieved” to hear it has been cancelled – but now they must be compensated, a local councillor has said.
Jamie Stephenson, chairman of Madeley Parish Council, near Stoke-on-Trent, said the rail project had already had a “major impact” on the villages of Madeley, Whitmore and others.
Cllr Stephenson said the decision should have been made years ago to save residents from stress and heartache.
He said: “We have had loads of farmers who have had their land compulsory purchased, some of them have been left completely heartbroken because these farms were their whole lives, some were born there and grew up there and they have been taken away from them and they don’t really understand why.
“A lot of it has been for early environmental works, which, from what we can see, is planting small trees and carving up the fields.
“It has been really unclear what the actual purpose of that is, other than to try and diminish the environmental impact of HS2, while they are ripping up ancient woodland in the process. It has been very strange process.
“To be frank, the biggest problems were probably yet to come with the construction work itself so I think we have been lucky that those main construction works haven’t actually started.”
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 21:00
Schemes No 10 the money will go into
Labour claimed that “almost all” of the schemes announced by the Prime Minister “had already been part of government plans so cannot be described as new investments nor reinvestments”.
These are the projects Downing Street says the HS2 money will go into:
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 20:21
Sunak speech goes up in smoke as two predecessors attack key plans
Rishi Sunak’s flagship plans came under fire from two Tory former prime ministers, as well as northern leaders, business chiefs and other senior Tories. The full story:
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 19:50
Tory mayor of West Midlands ‘disappointed’ but won’t resign
Tory mayor of Birmingham ‘disappointed’ by HS2 phase two cancellation but won’t resign
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 19:20
Tory Party conference fallout: Ask our political commentator
John Rentoul will be taking your questions on the fallout from the Conservative Party conference live at 2pm tomorrow. Submit your question here:
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 18:58
Land set aside for rail route will no longer be ‘protected’
Land earmarked for the HS2 routes now scrapped will not be protected for potential future expansion of the high-speed railway, the Department for Transport has confirmed.
Railway consultant William Barter described the decision as “ludicrous” and an act of “spite”.
Under a process known as safeguarding, land on routes beyond the West Midlands – to Crewe, Manchester and the East Midlands – was protected to stop conflicting developments taking place.
Some residents also voluntarily sold their homes to HS2 Ltd.
The government said safeguarding would be lifted in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire “at the earliest opportunity” to “remove the uncertainty that has surrounded thousands of people along the route”.
It went on: “The land acquisition programme on Phase 2a (between the West Midlands and Crewe) will be halted immediately and HS2 will not be accepting new applications under the existing schemes from property owners in the areas where safeguarding is going to be lifted.
“Any property that is no longer required for HS2 will be sold and a programme is being developed to do this.”
Mr Barter said this means planned phases beyond the West Midlands “will never happen”, which he described as “madness”.
He said the scrapped Phase 2a would have provided “a lot of value for relatively little cost as it’s just a straightforward line”.
He added: “He (Mr Sunak) shouldn’t design out the potential to do that.”
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 18:36
Cameron slates ‘lost opportunity’
David Cameron has accused Rishi Sunak of losing a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” by making the “wrong” decision to cancel the northern leg of HS2.
The former prime minister warned cuts to the high-speed rail project will make it “much harder” to build political consensus for future long-term projects.
Mr Cameron, writing on social media, said: “Today’s decision on HS2 is the wrong one. 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.
“HS2 was about investing for the long-term, bringing the country together, ensuring a more balanced economy and delivering the Northern Powerhouse. We achieved historic, cross-party support, with extensive buy-in from city and local authority leaders across the Midlands and North of England.
“Today’s announcement throws away fifteen years of cross-party consensus, sustained over six administrations, and will make it much harder to build consensus for any future long-term projects.”
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 18:14
Opinion: Could ‘Rishi the radical’ win the election?
The PM’s speech will reassure some doubters in a party that does not yet love Sunak, because he showed he won’t go down without a fight. But his three issues did not amount to a coherent long-term vision for the country, writes Andrew Grice:
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 17:52
Where the £36bn will go: Disused station to reopen and more projects
More details have emerged of where the £36bn the prime minister says is saved from HS2 will be spent, writes Simon Calder.
Rishi Sunak said in a social media clip that the number of trains between Leeds and Sheffield will quadruple. At present there are five off-peak trains each way per hour. The frequency is set to increase to 20 – or one every three minutes.
The disused Victoria station in Sheffield, which closed in the early 1970s, will be reopened as the hub for new lines north and south of the city.
The government’s Network North map shows projects as far south as Devon and Kent – extending a rail link from Plymouth by a few miles to Tavistock, and improving a busy road junction on the A2 London-Dover road.
Jane Dalton4 October 2023 17:29