The Northern Leg of the High-Speed 2 (HS2) rail project has long been a topic of controversy and debate. While it aimed to improve connectivity and reduce journey times between the North and South of England, it faced significant opposition due to its high costs and environmental concerns. As such, it is no wonder that in October 2023 it was announced that all HS2 projects north of Birmingham would be scrapped. In lieu of HS2’s northern route, Sunak has instead proposed a number of alternative projects that could be funded with the £36 billion that was previously designated to the high speed rail project.
The replacement for the now-scrapped northern portion of HS2 is called Network North, which will see £19.8 billion invested in the North of England. However, the Midlands has not been forgotten, with this region set to receive £9.6 billion, and an additional £6.5 billion will be distributed across the rest of the country. But what will these billions of pounds actually be spent on, and what will replace HS2?
The Midlands Rail Hub is a significant rail investment project aimed at enhancing rail connectivity in the Midlands region and beyond. According to Midlands Connect, rail use across the Midlands is growing at a far faster rate than anywhere else in the UK, which means that the regional transport system requires updating. This project aims to add an additional 14 million seats each year to the rail network, as well as adding more frequent trains. What’s more, new rail links are set to be added across the Midlands in areas such as Birmingham, Bromsgrove and Nuneaton, and beyond to cities like Cardiff and Bristol. These alterations to the rail network are set to bring 1.6 million more people within one hour of the Midland’s core towns and cities.
The A1 is a major north-south arterial road for the UK. The government has planned upgrades to improve road transportation between cities in the North of England. This includes expanding and enhancing key sections of the A1, reducing congestion, and ensuring more efficient road travel. There have been calls to dual the single-lane sections of the A1 for almost a decade, with works on this being approved as far back as 2014, to date work has not yet commenced. While not a direct rail replacement, improved road infrastructure will complement the overall transportation network, making it easier for people to travel between cities in the North.
Electrification of rail lines in North Wales, Leeds, and Hull is a crucial step in the effort to reduce emissions and improve rail services in the North. Electric trains are more environmentally friendly and generally offer faster, more reliable service. By expanding the electrified rail network, the government is promoting sustainable and efficient transportation, offering an alternative to the high-speed route proposed by HS2. £1 billion is set to be granted to Wales in order to improve the North Wales main line, and an additional £3 billion will be used across England to electrify lines between Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Hull.
A new Bradford station is an essential component of the alternative plan to the HS2 Northern Leg, focusing on developing new infrastructure to meet the needs of the region. The £2 billion new station will put Manchester within half an hour’s reach, effectively halving existing journey times. This comes as welcome news to Bradford locals, who have long believed that additional transport infrastructure is required in the UK’s seventh biggest city, but have faced continued roadblocks when it comes to securing the necessary investment.
A new mass-transit system is set to be constructed in Yorkshire – specifically Leeds – as consolation for the now-redundant plans to expand HS2. Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe that lacks a tram or light rail network, and it seems that funding is now becoming available to provide this northern powerhouse with the transport network it needs. A West Yorkshire mass transit system has been in the plans for many years but, much like with the aforementioned Bradford Station, plans have not yet come to fruition. Now, Sunak has dedicated £2.5 billion to remediating this lack of viable transport, promising to enhance connectivity and transport infrastructure across Leeds.
Enhancing rail links between Manchester and Liverpool is a critical part of the government’s wider plans for that will replace HS2, so much so that one third of the money dedicated to Network North is being channelled into improving these connections. Improving this Northern Powerhouse Rail corridor means faster, more efficient transportation between two major northern cities. The goal is to boost economic activity and support commuters and businesses by providing a reliable rail service by retaining elements of HS2, such as the £12 billion dedicated to linking Liverpool and Manchester. The government has also said that HS2 trains will still be able to run from London to Manchester, albeit not on newly built lines north of Birmingham, which will still slice journey times by 27 minutes.
When it comes to what will replace HS2, these projects are just a few of the many things being promised by the Sunak led government as a replacement for the Northern leg of HS2. Even more smaller projects are set to be funded, such as:
It is clear that Rishi Sunak has a vivid plan for what will replace HS2 across the UK. Of course, all of these projects will be dependent on the Prime Minister’s ability to retain power into 2024 and beyond, as well as planning from local authorities, meaning that it may take years to breathe life into these projects. If you’re looking for more updates on the way HS2 could impact you, or how these promises of improved transport infrastructure could impact the property market, be sure to regularly explore Centrick’s News and Insights page. Have any specific questions? Get in touch below:
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