HS2: Midlands and northern England to get ‘reallocated’ funds

Labour says the plans are a “reannouncement” of funds from scrapping parts of the high-speed line.
HS2: Midlands and northern England to get 'reallocated' funds
A man carries out roadworksGetty Images

The government has outlined further details of how it would redirect funding from the scrapped northern legs of the HS2 rail line.

Around £4.7bn from cancelling the high-speed routes is due to be handed to councils outside big cities in the Midlands and northern England.

Councils would be responsible for allocating funds to specific projects, in line with government guidance.

But Labour said the “reannouncement” was just a “back of a fag packet plan”.

The funding has been earmarked for spending between 2025 and 2032, after the next spending review that sets departmental spending.

The period covered would also come after the next general election, which is expected later this year, raising further uncertainty over the plans.

In October, the government shelved the parts of the HS2 line between the West Midlands to Manchester, and to the East Midlands, following spiralling costs in recent years.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who will hold a cabinet meeting in Yorkshire on Monday, has promised that instead £36bn will be spent on further transport funding in northern areas of England.

It had already announced that £4.7bn from the project would be “reallocated” to local authorities outside big cities in northern England and the Midlands.

Now, the transport department has disclosed some further details of how it plans to spend the money, including the funding period and a breakdown by individual local authority.

Guidance on how the money should be spent would be set out in “due course”, it added, but cited new bus and train stations, roads and mass-transit systems as projects that would be eligible.

It also suggested it could also go towards refurbishing bus and trains stations, as well as building charging points for electric cars.

‘Brass neck promise’

The seven-year funding period mirrors the latest funding allocations to the separate £17bn funding pot for big cities.

The department said this would help big-city authorities to work with neighbouring councils in more suburban and rural areas on shared projects.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said confirmation of the spending would be “game-changing” for smaller cities and towns, and enable them to “drive economic growth”.

But his Labour counterpart Louise Haigh criticised the “reannouncement,” adding: “local people are sick and tired of this government taking them for fools”.

“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,” she added.

‘Recycling money’ complaint

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a lobby group for northern businesses, said he was “not particularly excited” by the details shared by ministers.

“This is just repeating an old announcement, and recycling money from something that was cancelled,” he told BBC North West Tonight.

He added that the costs to the north of England incurred by cancelling HS2’s northern legs would be “significantly more than the amounts of money that are going to be allocated” as a result.

The government initially gave an outline of how it planned to redirect HS2 funding in a document accompanying the shelving of the northern legs in October.

The paper, entitled “Network North”, was criticised for showcasing funding for some projects that had already been completed, and was subsequently rewritten.

It detailed that the government plans to redirect £8.3bn towards fixing potholes across England up to 2034, £1bn for improving northern and Midlands bus services, and funding to extend the £2 bus fare cap until the end of this year.

HS2 new map

Source: bbc.co.uk

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