The Birmingham to Manchester leg of high-speed rail network HS2 has been scrapped by the government.
So, what was originally planned, how much has the project cost so far and what will the change mean for journey times?
Here’s what you need to know.
What was the original plan for HS2 and what has been scrapped?
The last Labour government set up a company called HS2 Ltd in 2009 to look at whether a successor to HS1, which runs from London St Pancras to the Ashford Channel Tunnel station in Kent, would be worthwhile. The Conservative coalition government gave HS2 the green light in 2012.
The project initially planned to link London and Birmingham, with further legs reaching Leeds and Manchester separately.
But in 2021 the government announced it was scrapping the Leeds connection. And the prime minister has now confirmed, after weeks of speculation, that the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 will no longer go ahead.
Had HS2 continued to Manchester, it was proposed that it would cut journey times by 54 minutes, from the fastest time of two hours and six minutes to an hour and 11 minutes.
Though the government is keen to stress that travelling to the capital will still be swifter overall, thanks to the high speed section from Birmingham. Mr Sunak said in his speech today that total journey time would fall by 30 minutes.
How much has HS2 cost so far?
The original cost of HS2 – at 2009 prices – was supposed to be £37.5 billion.
In 2020, the leaked Oakervee Review revealed the total project could cost up to £106.6bn, but concluded “on balance” it should continue.
But in July this year, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) gave “red” ratings to both Phase 1 (London to West Midlands) and Phase 2a (West Midlands to Crewe, which is part of the Manchester leg), which meant the watchdog considered these parts of the project “unachievable”. The Crewe to Manchester segment was rated “amber”, which means that “significant issues already exist”, but they can be resolved if addressed quickly.
As of June this year, the total spent so far was £24.7bn (at 2019 prices), with £22.5bn of this spent on the London to Birmingham section.
The prime minister said the government “will take every pound that would have been spent extending HS2 and invest over £36bn into Network North”.
Network North is “a new programme of transport improvements that will benefit far more people, in far more places, far quicker”.
A government factsheet says that of the £36bn, £19.8 billion will be for the North, £9.6 billion for the Midlands, and £6.5 billion for the rest of the country.