North and Midlands to Benefit from £4.7bn Local Transport Fund Following HS2 Northern Leg Cancellation

North and Midlands to Benefit from £4.7bn Local Transport Fund Following HS2 Northern Leg Cancellation

26 Feb    Finance News, News

In a strategic move to redistribute funds and prioritise local transport infrastructure, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled plans to allocate £4.7 billion to the North and Midlands regions of England.

This significant investment follows the decision to abandon the northern extension of the high-speed rail project, HS2, last year.

The reallocated funds will be channeled into a “local transport fund,” aimed at bolstering connectivity and addressing transportation challenges in towns, rural areas, and smaller cities across Northern England and the Midlands. Councils and local authorities will be granted autonomy in determining how to utilize these funds, which could encompass initiatives such as road repairs, mass transit improvements, and enhancements to bus infrastructure.

Criticism of the decision to halt the HS2 northern leg last October, particularly in light of promises to ‘level up’ regional disparities and advance the ‘Northern Powerhouse‘ agenda, has been met with assurances from Downing Street. Prime Minister Sunak, stressing the importance of local leadership, emphasised that the new investment would empower communities to prioritise transport projects tailored to their specific needs.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper highlighted the significance of this funding tranche, labeling it a “game changer” set to enhance daily transport connectivity for years to come. The decision to redirect resources away from HS2 towards local transport initiatives has been framed as a practical means of delivering tangible benefits to a wider array of communities, in contrast to the more limited scope of the high-speed rail project.

However, the announcement has not been without its detractors. Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, criticized the plan as hastily conceived and emblematic of broken promises. She underscored Labour’s commitment to empowering communities through enhanced public transport services and advocated for a shift towards public ownership of railways.

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The unveiling of this local transport fund coincides with a cabinet meeting convened by Prime Minister Sunak in Northern England, underscoring the government’s commitment to engaging directly with regional stakeholders. Transport Secretary Mark Harper is expected to provide updates on Network North, a comprehensive £36 billion plan aimed at overhauling the region’s transport infrastructure.

As the first HS2 trains are slated to commence operations between Birmingham Curzon Street and Old Oak Common in London between 2029 and 2033, the focus on localized transport investment signals a broader strategy to address regional disparities and promote economic growth outside of traditional urban centers. With local leaders poised to take the reins in shaping transport priorities, the £4.7 billion infusion represents a pivotal step towards realising the government’s vision of a more connected and equitable transportation network across the North and Midlands.

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