Up to 157,000 potential jobs have been lost in the wake of Rishi Sunak’s decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2, Labour has claimed.
The Prime Minister ended weeks of speculation this month when he announced his Government would axe the high-speed rail link to Manchester in favour of funding local road and rail transport links around the country.
The immediate knock-on effects of the Government’s decision to ditch the rail line between Birmingham and Manchester is likely to result in 24,000 skilled jobs directly linked to the construction of Phase 2.
Such jobs include engineering, management, mechanic and construction roles and are based on HS2 Ltd’s own 2021 skills forecasts needed for building the Birmingham-to-Crewe link and the later Crewe-to-Manchester spur of the rail line.
Hs2 Ltd, the Government’s own delivery arm for the major rail scheme, also forecast that the creation of a new commercial hub surrounding Crewe was “expected to create 37,000 jobs and 7,000 new homes by 2043”.
According to the Greater Manchester Authority, it was hoped that a further 96,000 jobs and 16,800 homes would be delivered by the construction of HS2 Phase 2b, under which the construction of a new station and rail link between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport was planned, as well as its integration with the long-promised Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).
While the Government has said it will spend £12bn on delivering the new NPR link between Manchester and Liverpool, it remains unclear whether this will be based on the existing HS2 plans.
Labour has said that the decision by Mr Sunak could result in as many as 157,000 jobs being lost as a result of the move.
This does not account for the fact that other jobs would be created via the Government’s own plans to deliver hundreds of transport improvements under its Network North plans, however.
Just what these transport schemes will be is as yet unclear after the Prime Minister admitted last week that the projects he promised were only “illustrative”.
Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said the “chaos and incompetence” surrounding the Government’s decision to scrap HS2 was having a “catastrophic impact on our economy”.
“Towns and cities across the country will now miss out on 150,000 jobs as a direct result of decisions made by the Prime Minister. This is the exact opposite of the ‘levelling up’ we were promised,” she added.
Mr Sunak has come under significant criticism from senior Conservatives, including former prime ministers David Cameron and Boris Johnson, for his decision to cancel HS2 north of Birmingham, which is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe.
Mr Cameron was scathing, insisting the decision was the “wrong one” and added that it only served to fuel the opinion that the UK “can no longer think or act for the long-term as a country; that we are heading in the wrong direction”.
The Prime Minister also came under fire after he appeared to have filmed a video about his decision to scrap the high-speed line well before his official announcement, despite repeatedly stating that no decision had been made.
The Department for Transport has been contacted for comment.