Rishi Sunak has axed the HS2 project from Birmingham to Manchester and promised to use the £36bn of savings to fund hundreds of other transport schemes.
On Wednesday, the prime minister told the Tory party conference in Manchester that the high-speed rail project’s costs had “more than doubled”.
He scrapped the Birmingham-Manchester leg despite critics saying he had decided to “shaft the North”, with others suggested it was a "national tragedy" and would adversely affect that part of the country for 100 years.
Sunak said: “I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project. And in its place, we will reinvest every single penny – £36bn – in hundreds of transport projects.”
He later added in a statement: “Instead we will take every pound that would have been spent extending HS2 and invest over £36bn into Network North – a new programme of transport improvements that will benefit far more people, in far more places, far quicker.”
The government says the Network North funding will be used to “drive better connectivity” within and between towns, suburbs and cities as well as “improve everyday local journeys for people”.
The government has published a map showing where the money will be invested:
This is how the government has described the key projects for Network North in a document published today, many of which are not in the North:
Connecting the major cities of the North with more frequent trains, increased capacity and faster journeys.
Investing over £2bn for a brand new rail station and line connection for Bradford to give a 30-minute journey to Manchester via Huddersfield.
£2.5bn for a new West Yorkshire mass transit system, improving connections between Leeds and Bradford, Huddersfield and Halifax.
£3.9bn of additional investment for transport for city regions in the North, including Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester and Tees Valley.
£4.7bn of brand new long-term funding deals for places outside city regions in the North and Midlands – areas like Blackpool, Harrogate and Scarborough.
Strategic road projects, such as the M6 Junction 15 between Manchester and Birmingham, and providing funding to dual the A1 between Morpeth and Ellingham.
Reopening Beeching lines to reconnect areas like County Durham, Burton, Stocksbridge and Waverley.
Fully funding the Midlands Rail Hub - increasing investment to £1.75bn, connecting more than 50 stations from Cheltenham to Derby.
Upgrading rail links between Newark and Nottingham, halving journey times between Nottingham and Leeds.
Ensuring the delivery of 70 road schemes across the country – including 21 in the North, 10 in the Midlands and 39 in the rest of the country.
Investing in road pinch points, committing funding to fix pinch points on the A5 between Hinckley and Tamworth and improvements to the A50/500.
Supporting the incoming East Midlands mayor with a new transport devolution settlement of £1.5bn.
Extending the £2 bus fare through to the end of 2024.
Funding for hundreds of new local bus routes through Bus Service Improvement Plans.
Supporting the West Midlands. Uplifting the West Midlands mayoral budget by more than £1bn.
£8.3bn to fix the blight of potholes on roads up and down the country.
Delivering electrification of the North Wales Main Line, improving journey times and better connecting North Wales with London and the North West.
Providing the funding to upgrade the A75 to improve links between Scotland and the main port to Northern Ireland.
Grim poll reveals what people really think of Rishi Sunak (Yahoo News UK)
What critics have said
Tory mayor for the West Midlands, Andy Street, said axing HS2 to Manchester would be “an incredible political gaffe”, allowing opponents to accuse Sunak of having decided to “shaft the North” while in the city.
Street had threatened to resign if Sunak cancelled the north leg of the high-speed rail but ultimately decided to stay, adding he was still disappointed in the decision.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the decision had caused "frustration and anger".
He said: "It just proves there's still so many people in politics, many of them in the Tory party, that think they can treat the north of England differently to the way they treat other parts of the country - it's just so wrong."
Northern Powerhouse chief Henri Murison described it as an economic “national tragedy”, saying: “That's because in 100 years the economy of the North will be smaller because of this decision.”
David Cameron accused Sunak of losing a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” by making the “wrong” decision to cancel the northern leg of HS2.
The former prime minister warned cuts to the high-speed rail project will make it “much harder” to build political consensus for future long-term projects.
Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, also expressed his frustration, adding: “The decision to stop the legs north and east of Birmingham is deeply disappointing, leaving a major gap in the UK’s rail strategy around which a number of city regions have been basing their economic growth plans.”
Travel journalist Simon Calder pointed out that the Network North replacement investment was being used in other areas of the country.
“Network North is taking over the nation, reaching as far south as Plymouth, according to this government map,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.