THE Prime Minister has officially scrapped the Manchester leg of HS2 after weeks of speculation.

Addressing the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Wednesday, Rishi Sunak said the “facts have changed” amid ballooning costs for the project.

He said the money would be diverted to other public transport projects and roads in the North of England and the Midlands, which he claimed would better serve the needs of people in those areas.

It will leave the high-speed network effectively a shuttle service between Birmingham Curzon Street and London Euston.

The decision was met with dismay and anger from trade unionists and devolved leaders in England. 

Sunak said the project would reach central London, quashing speculation that the line would only reach Old Oak Common, some six miles away in the city’s suburbs.

The National: Passengers at Euston station in London,

The Prime Minister dubbed his new plans the “northern network” and said the £36 billion saved on the axed Manchester leg would be invested in other projects.

“I am ending this long-running saga,” he said.

“I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project and in its place, we will reinvest every single penny, £36bn in hundreds of new transport projects in the north and the midlands, across the country.

“This means £36bn of investment in the project that will make a real difference across our nation.”

Sunak added: “We will complete the line from Birmingham to Euston and yes, HS2 trains will still run here to Manchester and journey times will be cut between Manchester, Birmingham, London by 30 minutes."

READ MORE: Scotland has 'little hope' of seeing HS2 benefits in 'unequal Union', Alba MP says

Turning his attention to the predicted opposition to the U-turn from Tory West Midlands Mayor Andy Street (below), the Prime Minister added: "And I say this to Andy Street, a man I have huge admiration and respect for, I know we have different views on HS2.

The National: West Midlands Mayor Andy Street

“But I also know we can work together to ensure a faster, stronger spine, quicker trains and more capacity between Birmingham and Manchester.”

'Connect our Union'

Other cash will be spent on improving the A75 to “connect our union”, said Sunak.

“We’ll build the Midlands Rail Hub connecting 50 different stations, we will help Andy Street extend the West Midlands Metro, we will build the Leeds tram, we will electrify the North Wales mainline, upgrade A1, the A2, the A5, the M6,” he added.

“We will connect our union with the A75, boosting links between Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt previously announced funding for the road in Dumfries and Galloway in last year's Autumn statement. 

Meanwhile, Sunak also said the Government will deliver “70 other road schemes”, “resurface roads across the country” and “keep the £2 bus fare across the whole country”. 

Throwing down the gauntlet to Labour, Sunak said if the party opposed his new plans they must admit they would now be committed to "cancelling the hundreds of alternative projects right across the country". 

He said: "For too long people in Westminster have invested in the transport they want, not the transport the rest of the country – particularly the North and the Midlands – wants and needs.

“And to those who disagree, who will focus on what I have stopped, I ask you to consider what we have just created with network north.

“An alternative which in place of one delayed and overrunning project will now begin hundreds upon hundreds of new projects, large and small, road and rail, bus and train covering the whole country that will be delivered faster, that will see every region receiving more investment than they would have done.

“You can’t have both, so those who wish to disagree with me, I respect that. But they should have the honesty to admit that they would now be cancelling the hundreds of alternative projects right across the country that people will benefit from instead.”

All change at Euston

A new "development zone" would be created around Euston station in central London, Sunak said, stripping HS2 of responsibility for the site. 

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

“We will instead create a new Euston development zone building thousands of new homes for the next generation of homeowners, new business opportunities and a station that delivers the capacity we need.

“And in doing so, for the first time in the lifecycle of this project, we will have cut costs. The £6.5bn of savings that [Transport Secretary] Mark [Harper] and I are making will be taken from the Euston site and given to the rest of the country.”

'Symbol of failure' 

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, said the Prime Minister's plan was not "coherent", arguing that the current plan does not solve the problem of bottlenecks and lack of capacity on the railway network in the north, which stretches from Liverpool in the west to Hull in the east.

He said the current plans also do not solve the problems of capacity on the railways running north-south from Manchester to Birmingham and London.

He added: “So, we haven’t got a plan here that works north-south or east-west.”

Street, who had been rumoured to be on the brink of quitting the Conservative Party over the decision, said he was "incredibly disappointed" by the decision. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The PM can wrap it up any way he wants but what we get is still massive under-investment in our industries, critical infrastructure and public services – while profiteering goes unchecked and workers pay the price.

“Cancelling HS2 is yet another example of this. A project that would have brought well-paid, highly-skilled jobs to the north of England cancelled at the last minute and replaced with a promise of cash for potholes."

Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT, said the decision was "disasterous", adding: "“High Speed rail together with a modern expanding public transport network is key to the future of linking every part of our country together, from north to south and East to West."

The National: Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh

Louise Haigh (above), Labour's shadow transport secretary, added: "Is there anything more emblematic of 13 years of dismal failure by this broken Government than their flagship levelling-up project that fails to even reach the North?

“What started as a modern infrastructure plan left by the last Labour government has, after 13 years of incompetence, waste, and broken promises, become a colossal symbol of Conservative failure.”