The government has confirmed plans to cut the eastern leg of the HS2.
Mothballed a few months ago, the extension has now been shelved completely, which is likely to cause delight and consternation in equal measure. While the scheme was popular with those whose principal focus was the economy – with Sheffield in particular a hub of enthusiasm – it was generally disliked by the public at large.
HS2 has gathered a degree of notoriety for its ever-expanding budget so ultimately something was always going to have to give. Given the fact that the western leg is further down the tracks (no pun intended), the eastern leg was always going to find itself in the crosshairs when the strain on public finances ultimately proved too much.
The key point for debate in the coming days and weeks will be the suitability of whatever proposals the government have to replace HS2. The pressure that Covid 19 has put on the exchequer is well documented, however, there comes a point where one suspects this will start to clash with the government’s still much-vaunted ‘levelling up’ agenda. The north of the United Kingdom, and of England in particular, is still crying out not only for better transport infrastructure but more transport infrastructure – including faster and more frequent services between the north’s dominant commercial centres, Leeds and Manchester.
An eye must also be kept on the potential for growth in the other commercial centres of the north, with seats full of voters that the government, having won over, will not be keen to lose.