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What is HS2? Where Will HS2 Go Now?
The HS2 project was designed to connect London to the West Midlands and Yorkshire via a high-speed, zero-carbon railway. Estimated costs increased from £55.7 billion to £98 billion in just four years, which caused construction delays. Due to these interruptions from the sky-rocketing budget and post-pandemic infrastructure, Rishi Sunak recently decided to stop the route at Birmingham.
The route once continued to Crewe, with a recent HS2 update prompting the addition of more Manchester stations. Even with this recent update, the Manchester route has been scrapped altogether. Since the axed Leeds route, the announcement of the scrapped Northern leg has caused upset for residents.
Since it was first proposed in 2012, estimated costs have soared. The estimated cost for the London to Birmingham build increased by a fifth in just 4 months, from £45 billion in June to £54 billion this October. Due to this, the government has axed the Northern leg of HS2 and reprioritised better connectivity in the region with the same budget.
Phase One of the HS2 project will continue, including the route from London to the Midlands and Birmingham Curzon Street Station. The saved budget from the Northern HS2 route is promised to go towards further works on the Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Rishi Sunak has promised to prioritise connecting Northern towns and cities, which originally were not benefiting from the project. According to the government, more than 4 million North England residents cannot reach their city centre within half an hour. Due to this, the government believes the North and Midlands are being ‘held back’ by not having access to high-quality transport infrastructure.
A promise to invest ‘every penny’ of the £19.8 billion originally planned for HS2’s Northern route in all the cities, towns, and rural areas that would have benefitted from the route. The government is committed to this. To them, investing more into Network North is exactly what the regions from Liverpool to Sheffield to Hull desperately need.
£4 billion will improve connections to, from, and within 6 major cities in the North. £2.5 billion is to fund local transport in smaller cities and towns. This includes new stations, bus corridors, and electrifying existing public transport.
For the South, there is a commitment to build an additional HS2 route to Euston. This will connect to Old Oak Common Station currently under construction in West London. This is alongside plans to upgrade South West rail routes. The government pledges to improve East-West rail links within Northern cities by pursuing Network North plans.
As part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail improvements, the £12 billion replacement of a section of the Liverpool-Manchester track will still go ahead from HS2 plans. Also, the number of trains between Sheffield and Leeds will quadruple. Plans insist trains will be as frequent as 20 per hour compared to the current 5.
Another main part of Network North’s plans is the electrification of the rail line to Hull. This is alongside previous plans for a third, new train station in Bradford, which has been reinstated. This station will greatly benefit Yorkshire and connect travellers to Manchester in less than 30 minutes. Even with the Manchester HS2 route scrapped, Rishi Sunak has said that the ‘new Network North’ will connect Manchester to Sheffield in 42 minutes and to an electrified Hull in 82 minutes.
Railway improvements outside the Northern Powerhouse Rail consist of electrifying the North Wales mainline between Holyhead and Crewe, as well as refining the West Midlands Metro and Nottingham Express Transit. There are also aims to finalise 2003’s plans to reinstate a passenger service to the Don Valley Line. Built in the 1940s, this railway on the edge of Sheffield was closed to passengers in the 1970s and has been used by freight trains ever since. Now, with additional funding to Network North, the government plans to re-open the route to passengers once more.
Road Infrastructure and Other Improvements
A large part of Network North includes road improvements. Funding will be money reallocated from rail schemes. Such road infrastructure plans include refining the M6 between Manchester and Birmingham and investing nearly £3.3 billion to fix potholes.
Rishi Sunak’s speech also spoke of upgrades to the A1, A2, A5, A75, M6, and 70 more road schemes. As for public transport, more investments have been promised. The government is committed to keeping £2 bus fares until December 2024 and will invest more than £700 million from the axed HS2 Northern route to improve bus services. Such services include reaching more industrial and business parks and doubling buses between Norwich and Chester.
Manchester and Leeds will undergo large improvements, too. Manchester will see bus rapid transport corridors and the extension of its Metrolink to the airport’s second terminal. As for Leeds, the city will see a £2.5 billion investment for a tram network. This ‘West Yorkshire Mass Transit System’ will be a first for the city. Up to 7 lines have been promised with the ambition for Leeds to “no longer be the biggest European city without a mass transit system.”
Network North promises include “more trams for Blackpool, more electric buses in Harrogate, better bus-rail interchange in Scarborough.” The construction and upgrades promised for Network North will undoubtedly benefit the Northern Powerhouse property market. From these transport upgrades, more hybrid workers and businesses will relocate North. This will offer fantastic capital growth potential for major and even smaller cities.
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