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UK PM cancels part of rail project, promises wider transport spending, ET Infra

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<p>UK PM Rishi Sunak </p>
UK PM Rishi Sunak

MANCHESTER: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday he would cancel part of a high-speed rail project, ending weeks of uncertainty and provoking anger in his own Conservative Party with an attempt to portray himself as a tough decision maker.

With the governing Conservatives badly lagging the opposition Labour Party in the polls before an election expected next year, Sunak and his team are desperate to revive his premiership by saying he is a man of action, willing and able to take long-term “tough decisions” to make people better off.

But his flagship ‘tough decision’ on HS2 high speed rail in his closing speech at the party’s annual conference might do little to steady the ship.

Ending days of speculation over the second phase of the project to northern England, he told conference: “I’m ending this long-running saga. I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project. And in its place we will reinvest every single penny – 36 billion pounds – in hundreds of new transport projects in the north and the midlands, across the country.”

To applause from a packed conference hall, Sunak told those who first backed the project years ago that the circumstances had changed, making the money better spent on roads, underground rail systems and other transport connections in northern and central England.

“Hs2 is the ultimate example of the old consensus,” he said, pressing his message that he was the politician to change 30 years of an inefficient “political status quo”.

His words might do little to calm the tempers of not only those businesses which have invested heavily to start construction, but also some Conservatives, particularly a regional mayor and party favourite in central England.

But Sunak’s supporters say it is proof he can withstand criticism in his pursuit of making the “right decisions” rather than politically expedient ones, pointing to the reaction over his move to water down measures to reach climate targets.

  • Published On Oct 5, 2023 at 08:11 AM IST

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