Rishi's on the wrong track: David Cameron and George Osborne slam decision to scrap HS2 northern leg

4 October 2023, 15:26 | Updated: 4 October 2023, 19:40

Rishi Sunak scrapped the HS2 extension in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference
Rishi Sunak scrapped the HS2 extension in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

David Cameron and George Osborne have slammed Rishi Sunak's decision to scrap HS2's northern leg, saying the UK will look back and wonder how a "once-in-a-generation opportunity was lost".

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Speaking after Rishi Sunak said HS2's northern leg will be scrapped, former prime minister David Cameron said the decision will "fuel the views of those who argue that we can no longer think or act for the long-term".

George Osborne, who was Chancellor under Mr Cameron's prime ministership, said he agreed with his former boss.

The high-speed rail project was announced when Mr Cameron and Osborne were in power in 2012, after it was initially mooted by the Labour administration in 2009.

A bill was introduced to Parliament in 2013.

In 2016, a report found that HS2 was likely to be over budget, but it continued to be backed by successive Conservative government, including those headed by Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Read More: HS2 extension scrapped and £36bn to be spent on new transport projects in the North, says Rishi Sunak

The Mayor of Manchester also said there was "frustration and anger" in the North after the project was scrapped following weeks of speculation.

"It always seems that people here where I live and where I kind of represent can be treated as second class citizens when it comes to transport," Mr Burnham 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."

Meanwhile, in recent days, the "furious" Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, repeatedly refused to confirm whether he would quit amid speculation HS2's northern leg would be scrapped.

He has since confirmed that he will remain a member of the Conservative party, despite pleading with Mr Sunak to stick with the northern leg.

"I intend as part of that to make good on the offer that the Prime Minister has put today to invest a lot more money in transport in the West Midlands, and to look further links between Birmingham and the rest of the West Midlands and the North," Mr Street said.

"He put that offer out very clearly today."

The Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham
The Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham. Picture: Getty
Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street
Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street. Picture: Getty

The prime minister today confirmed he will scrap HS2 to Manchester - and will spend £36billion on other transport instead.

After weeks of speculation he finally revealed the future of the rail line at his major party conference speech in Manchester.

He was cheered by activists as he used his keynote address to promise more cash for buses, other rail, and cars.

But he said that the line would run into central London as vowed.

"Every region outside of London will receive the same or more government investment than they would have done under HS2, with quicker results," he said.

Read More: Meet Mrs Sunak: Everything you need to know about Rishi Sunak's billionaire ‘first lady’ Akshata Murthy

Read More: 'Rishi and I best friends': Sunak's wife introduces PM in surprise speech as she confirms his love of 'cheesy rom-coms'

Rishi Sunak delivers his speech to the Tory party conference
Rishi Sunak delivers his speech to the Tory party conference. Picture: Alamy

Read More: What is HS2 and is it going to be scrapped?

He said he will create a ‘Network North,’ explaining: “With our new Network North, you will be able to get from Manchester to the new station in Bradford in 30 minutes, Sheffield in 42 minutes, and to Hull in 84 minutes on a fully, electrified line.”

He said that HS2 trains will run all the way to Euston in London but that the HS2 management will no longer run the project there.

"There must be some accountability for the mistakes made, for the mismanagement of this project," he says.

"We will instead create a new Euston development zone."

Mr Sunak even made a direct appeal to the West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who has refused to rule out quitting his role over the move.

The PMs major address to the Tory faithful saw him make the case for long term decisions, rather than short term gains and politics as usual.

His wife Akshata Murthy was a surprise guest too, introducing her husband as her "best friend" snd lavishing praise on him.

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