The North of England has been deprived of much needed and previously promised rail improvements and extensions after the government announced a curtailing of HS2 and an all-out scrap of the Northern Powerhouse project.
This will be seen as another U-turn on the report card of the Johnson government after the Prime Minister had promised wide-ranging rail network improvements which would aid economic inequality, travel times and encourage business growth in the North.
It is a tactical ploy which has been published by Westminster as a new, improved revision of the original plan. Pertinent given the proposed plans of a fully joined network of high-speed rail, running seamlessly from North to South, East to West has now been cut, stripped and the offal been chucked in the nearest bin outside Downing Street.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, citied this new direction will save money and be delivered earlier than what was previously promised.
Shapps mentioned the Oakervee Review, which concluded a more flexible, regional approach was best, in changing the outlook of the government.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have a hard time wriggling out of this spot, especially given the outrage felt by his newly adopted ‘Red Wall’ MPs in the North of England who will feel betrayed and embarrassed at the prospect of having to sell this damp squib to their constituents.
This backtrack of promises for the North will fall out of alignment with the Prime Minister’s own ‘levelling up’ rhetoric; a chest of phrases and clean words which Johnson has traded upon ever since becoming PM.
Johnson said in 2019, upon taking hold of the PM position: “I want to be the prime minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did for Crossrail in London.”
At the heart of the plans, was a high-speed link between Manchester and Leeds. This will now not go ahead at all. Instead, a thinly veiled promise of ‘upgrades’ and new track was the answer from No.10.
As a result, Johnson’s plans have now attracted the headline of “crumbs off the table” by Labour, before shouting that the Conservatives have sold out the North.
The line from Liverpool to Manchester will also see no change nor will the proposed HS2 plan to extend the line from Crewe to Manchester.
Birmingham and Sheffield has also been wiped off the table after plans for the eastern leg of HS2 to run between Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds were binned.