‘Knee-jerk’ decision to scrap HS2 second leg ‘a mistake’, government’s infrastructure adviser says

The decision to scrap the second leg of HS2 to Manchester was a “mistake”, the government’s independent infrastructure adviser has said. 

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, told the BBC this morning that the decision to cut back on HS2 was a “sort of knee-jerk, snap reaction”.

He said: “I think it’s a mistake. I think that the land should be kept for at least two or three years to give the opportunity for people to revisit that and look at what can be done within that space and find a more cost-effective solution, not write it off today,” he said.

“I am disappointed because I think it’s what we often describe as a sort of knee-jerk, snap reaction”.

The comments follow the publication of the National Infrastructure Commission’s second five year review of the country’s infrastructure.

The report is critical of the decision to scrap the second leg of HS2, saying this is will leave “a major gap in the UK’s rail strategy around which a number of cities have based their economic growth plans”.

In his party conference speech earlier this month, prime minister Rishi Sunak labelled HS2 “the ultimate example of the old consensus” and hit out at the soaring costs and long delays.

“I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project”, he declared

He explained the government will instead reinvest the savings — £36bn — in “hundreds of new transport projects in the North and the Midlands, and across the country”.

Sunak said the “facts have changed” and the “right thing to do is to change direction”.

In place of HS2, the PM outlined what he is calling the “Network North”.

“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.

The National Infrastructure Commission’s report also concluded that the UK’s infrastructure needs a big cash injection.

Sir John Armitt called on the government to take urgent action. “The good news is that modern, reliable infrastructure can support economic growth, help tackle climate change and enhance the natural environment”, he said. 

“People often talk about infrastructure as the backbone of our economy: what our infrastructure needs now is the collective mettle to turn commitments into action that will reap rewards for decades to come.”

In total, the NIC made 46 key recommendations, including a suggestion that the government should make a substantial investment in public transport for England’s biggest cities.

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