The consequences of today's decision on HS2 

October, 2023 - Shoosmiths LLP

The government has today confirmed that it will not be proceeding with the northern leg of the HS2 high-speed rail link, with the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, stating: "Our plan will drive far more growth and opportunity here in the North than a faster train to London ever would."

HS2 was never just about getting to London faster though.

Rather, its aim was increasing connectivity, capacity and creating a high-speed rail spine in the UK – providing the infrastructure for routes to spur off and deliver the east-to-west connectivity raised in today’s announcement.

The decision to scrap the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 will have consequences. Jobs could be lost and businesses impacted.

Construction on this part of the network may be less advanced, but there are firms involved and working on the project. That’s even before considering the long-term effect this could have on the freight industry or the investment decisions – globally and domestically - that have been made on the basis of the route being delivered.

HS2 has dominated the political, media and social discourse in recent days. It is, however, critical that all parties understand that this isn’t the only hurdle facing the rail industry.

Those working in the sector and the supply chain have been provided with little clarity over the last few years – navigating almost constant changes in policy, beginning with the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands, the gradual chipping away of HS2 and the proposed shift to Great British Railways – the future of which is hanging in the balance.

This lack of leadership and consistency has stymied investment into rail and efforts to upgrade the existing network, as demonstrated by procurement delays for Network Rail’s Control Period 7, a £44bn five-year plan to improve the railway in England and Wales.

What is needed now is some transparency as to when and how the proposed projects will be delivered and what is the pipeline. Without that, the UK rail industry is still in the dark.


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