The CEO of MAG, Ken O’Toole released a statement this week regarding the government decision on HS2. Is it still relevant after this week’s announcement from UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak?
Such a statement was released on October 3, which was before the speech that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave at the Conservative Party Conference, where now he has in fact scrapped it.
Without further ado, let’s get into it…
MAG CEO Criticises UK Government Decision on HS2…
This is what MAG CEO said on October 3 regarding the decision of HS2, which in hindsight of the decision made over the program, is still relevant:
“It would be wrong of the Prime Minister to abandon the commitments the Government has made to deliver HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) – the North needs better connectivity to drive its economy forward.
“For more than a decade, the Government has told the country that rebalancing the economy is one of its top priorities.”
“It sold the country its vision for a new industrial revolution in the North, with high-value industries competing on the global stage and creating jobs and prosperity for everyone who lives and works there.”
“It painted a picture of a super-connected North, where people and businesses in all parts of the region could realise their ambitions.”
“It empowered the North to develop the plan that would unleash its potential and repeatedly backed HS2 and NPR as the projects that would do just that.”
“During that time, the North’s growth and productivity has been stifled by outdated rail infrastructure, but people were reassured that the blueprint for its bright and prosperous future was being advanced.
“The U.K. needs a bold and ambitious plan for unlocking the potential of the North and rebalancing the national economy.”
“That plan should integrate a modern rail network with the global connectivity provided by Manchester Airport.”
“We call on government to work with business and political leaders to ensure that vision is delivered.”
“If that connected transport network is not delivered, then more than a decade of laying the foundations for the North’s future will have been wasted, and people and businesses of the region would understandably feel let down and misled.”
Is This More Empty Promises?
At the Conservative Party Conference, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the Birmingham-Manchester part of HS2 would be scrapped, with the £36bn to be reinvested in funding to revitalise transport across the North and the Midlands.
It is understood that around £19.5bn of that is going to go to the North, with the UK Government listing the following projects:
- £2 billion for a new station at Bradford and a new connection to Manchester;
- £2.5 billion to deliver a new mass transit system in West Yorkshire;
- £3 billion for upgraded and electrified lines between Manchester and Sheffield, Sheffield and Leeds, Sheffield and Hull, and Hull-Leeds.
- £12bn for better connectivity from Manchester to Liverpool through the delivery of high-speed lines.
In the context of MAG and Ken O’Toole’s statement from this week, investment announcements like this are welcome, but will they actually happen?
Projects like this have been in the Conservative Party manifesto since 2020, and have been long sought after even before COVID.
“The U.K. needs a bold and ambitious plan for unlocking the potential of the North and rebalancing the national economy”, O’Toole said in his statement, noted above.
If they do get elected for another term on top of the 13 years served already, it seems to be the attitude of those opposed to HS2 being scrapped that it won’t happen, and that this could be empty promises with a general election looming in 18 months.
The realistic element to this is that airports such as Manchester Airport under MAG may not see the benefits of the proposed rail infrastructure expansion in the North until well after the General Election.
Can they wait that long for enhanced connectivity, something that is a contentious issue in the north of England?
But for now, they just have to make do with what they have got for infrastructure in the UK.
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