Press Release 4th October 2023

HS2: Does Westminster really know what the North needs?

You don't build a house, stop before putting the upper floor and the roof on, and put a bunch of portacabins in the garden.  Everyone knows that costs more when you finally finish the house and delays the benefits. And for HS2 that includes getting passengers to pay more towards the build costs. And that’s before the wider implications such as encouraging growth and achieving net zero are contemplated.

Mr Sunak received a standing ovation for the HS2 announcements with a clear inference that Westminster knows best what the North needs. Chris Page, Railfuture Chair commented “Stakeholders based in the north may think otherwise. The whole package comes over as the result of a PR department trawling every scheme on all modes in the pipeline or already announced, many of which are miles away. This is standard practice although the emphasis clearly moves from rail to road. Opportunities to decarbonise freight have been missed – see, eg. ciltuk.org.uk/News/Latest-News/ArtMID/6887/ArticleID/37134/Rail-electrification-possible-for-95-of-UK-freight-trains-CILT-research-reveals. This will mean lorries continue to clog up roads.

“Birmingham is the clear winner (or non-loser) and Manchester, the clear loser, where the consolation prizes are not properly defined with shovel ready proposals.”

Owen O’Neill, Railfuture Director commented “The constant change on HS2 design doesn’t give us much confidence that these schemes will proceed to actual delivery. Designs for many of these schemes are far, far, less mature so will take way longer to get to consent stage, let alone actual activity (and jobs) to construct them. Even if there is a real commitment, there is still much work to be completed to prepare a sensible design, cost it, and get it approved”. 

Neil Middleton, Railfuture’s Communications Director noted this comment in the Government’s Plan for Drivers ‘There has been no increase in the main fuel duty rate since January 2011. In March 2023, the rates of fuel duty were maintained for another year, by extending the temporary 5p fuel duty cut and cancelling the planned inflation increase for 2023 to 2024. The current cut along with the inflation freeze represents a saving for households and businesses this year of overall around £5 billion, and £10 billion over the 2 years following the introduction of the cut’ and went on to say “The government will quite happily devote £5bn per year to the motorist, but seems very unwilling to spend circa £5bn per annum of investment to increase connectivity for the long term”.

“Sometimes, supporting the Driver means that he or she should be given a choice – they can drive, or they have a credible alternative – when they can be on the move and not concentrating on the road ahead – or staring at a set of brake lights.  And even if that driver chooses to still drive, others may choose to stay off the road, to their benefit”.

Notes to editors:

Our analysis of the prime minister's announcement cancelling HS2 phase 2 is at www.railfuture.org.uk/article1904

Plan for Drivers: www.gov.uk/government/publications/plan-for-drivers/the-plan-for-drivers

HS2 costs from assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1179257/26580_HS2_Annual_Report_2022-2023_CS1813_WEB_accessible_reduced.pdf#page=70 – Average annual capital contribution from DfT £5.9bn


Railfuture is the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight.

Railfuture's website can be found at: www.railfuture.org.uk

Follow Railfuture on Twitter: twitter.com/Railfuture  

For further information and comment please contact:

Bruce Williamson, media spokesman
Tel: 0117 927 2954 Mobile: 07759 557389

Chris Page, Chair

Railfuture Ltd is a (not for profit) Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales No. 05011634. Registered Office: Edinburgh House, 1-5 Bellevue Road, Clevedon, North Somerset, BS21 7NP (for legal correspondence only); all other correspondence to 14 Ghent Field Circle, Thurston, Suffolk IP31 3UP