Rishi Sunak has been criticised for his decision to axe the northern leg of HS2, following days of speculation over the future of the high-speed project.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, the prime minister said the facts had changed and insisted he had "the courage to change direction" with the project.
However, his announcement was met with derision from railway unions, opposition politicians and even some Conservatives - including West Midlands mayor Andy Street, who had previously described the move as an "incredible gaffe".
Darren Caplan, Railway Industry Association chief executive, said: "Scrapping HS2 Phase 2 is simply unnecessary and squanders the full benefits of Phase 1. The government can work with metro mayors, the railway industry, rail suppliers, and other stakeholders, to agree a cost-effective way forward, including encouraging private investment to take pressure off the public purse.
"Today’s nuclear option is defeatist and sends a terrible signal to potential overseas investors that the UK simply cannot deliver large national transport infrastructure schemes."
For HS2 what is likely to be a controversial decision, Sunak promised:
to reinvest "every single penny" of the £36bn cost in hundreds of new transport projects
reduced travel times, including Manchester to the new Bradford station in 30 mins
that HS2 will still run to Euston in central London
spend £12bn linking Manchester and Liverpool
build a Midlands rail hub and Leeds tram
upgrade the A1, A2, A5 and the M6
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: "It always seems that people here where I live and where I kind of represent can be treated as second class citizens when it comes to transport... it's just so wrong."
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Sunak has proposed raising the smoking age by one year, every year, meaning a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette.
The prime minister said: “I propose that in future we raise the smoking age by one year, every year. That means a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette, and that they and their generation can grow up smoke-free.
“We know this works. When we raised the smoking age to 18, smoking prevalence dropped by 30% in that age group.”
Referring to smoking as the single biggest cause of preventable death in the UK, he added: “We have a chance to cut cancer deaths by a quarter, significantly ease those pressures, and protect our children, and we should take it.
Sunak said there would be a Commons vote on the change in the law in the future, but said it would be a free vote, describing it as a “matter of conscience”.
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Cameron tweets Sunak has made 'wrong' decision on HS2
Former Conservative prime minister David Cameron, writing on X, 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 15 years of cross-party consensus, sustained over six administrations, and will make it much harder to build consensus for any future long-term projects.
“All across the world, we see transformative, long-term infrastructure projects completed or under way. They show countries on the rise, building for future generations, thinking big and getting things done.
“I regret this decision and in years to come I suspect many will look back at today’s announcement and wonder how this once-in-a-generation opportunity was lost.”
Reports the planned high speed rail line would end in Birmingham - rather than continuing up to Manchester - have been circling for weeks. Sunak defended the move by promising to spend the billions of cash savings on hundreds of other transport schemes across the country instead.
Badly delivering words somebody else wrote, to an audience of peers who are outwardly enthusiastic but inwardly expecting you’ll be completely shambolic, and all in the knowledge that whatever happens, the party will likely end up divided over it?
‘Network North’ and a range of piecemeal road and rail projects will replace the western leg of the high-speed rail line
Rishi Sunak took aim at Nicola Sturgeon during his speech at the Conservative Party conference, joking that Scotland's former first minister could “go down”. The prime minister told delegates in Manchester that the “forces of separatism are in retreat across our country” and made direct reference to Ms Sturgeon.
Britain is cancelling the construction of a key section of the costly HS2 high-speed railway, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday, angering people and businesses in northern England, a region that would have benefited from the project.
Work on first HS2 route will continue 'at pace'
The Prime Minister’s press secretary said that some of the moves on HS2 will require legislative changes, but that it would not “hold up significant elements of work”.
She said: “Parliament has already approved the route between Euston and Birmingham, so work on that route can continue at pace. We do not need legislation to stop work on phases 2a and 2b.”
Number 10 said the funding would be spent on the transport projects in the same 2029-40 period.