Monday essay: More Network North inconsistencies appear

More inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the Network North announcements made by the Prime Minister last week have been emerging, following the axing of HS2 to Crewe and Manchester (writes Sim Harris).

Rishi Sunak told the Conservative Party conference on 4 October that £36 billion will be released by scrapping Phases 2A and 2B, the sections north of Lichfield. Instead, the funds would be invested in other transport schemes.

He said: ‘I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project. And in its place, we will reinvest every single penny, £36 billion pounds, in hundreds of new transport projects in the North and the Midlands, and across the country.

‘This means £36 billion of investment in the projects that will make a real difference across our nation.’

The budget for HS2 Phases 2A and 2B would have been spent between now and about 2040, and it has been revealed that some of the projects now listed by the government will not be completed until well into the 2030s.

Many of the schemes are not ‘new’. They have been listed on previous occasions, and in some cases have been completed, such as Metrolink to Manchester Airport and Nottingham Express Transit to Clifton South. Both these extensions are listed by the government as being funded by money from HS2, but were actually opened as long as nine years ago.

The government also withdrew its initial press release issued on 4 October and replaced it with a revised version the following day. 

The first release said: ‘The Leamside line, closed in 1964, will … be reopened.’, but the rewritten version says: ‘The North East will receive around £1.2 billion from the City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) 2 budget, plus a further £0.7 billion on top – funded from HS2 …This money could part fund the reopening of the Leamside Line.’

In another revision, the first announcement promises ‘£100 million in funding for a Mass Transit system: to revolutionise travel in and around Bristol’.

In the second the reference to Bristol has disappeared. Instead, it says: ‘£100 million in funding for the West of England Combined Authority’. The Authority’s area includes Bristol, but it now appears to be able to decide how to spend the £100 million.

Labour shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: ‘Their back of a fag packet plan is in disarray, and this shambles shows once again the Conservatives simply aren’t serious about delivering for the North.

‘Only after 13 years of failure could the Conservatives pledge to take two decades to deliver projects they’ve already promised.

‘These are promises that have been made to the North and Midlands countless times before – and frankly they’re sick and tired of empty promises from this broken Government.

‘The truth is, catastrophic Conservative mismanagement has blown a hole in HS2 and after this fiasco, why should anyone in the North believe they can deliver anything they say?’

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