Ben Houchen comment on abolishing HS2

Simply put, I would not have adequately represented this area if I had followed the party line and supported this colossal waste of money over the last decade.

I have always made it clear that HS2 is a white elephant and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has shown common sense and decided that as a nation we cannot continue to throw good money after bad. This decision to scrap HS2 had to be made in the national interest.

Even more positive is what Rishi Sunak decided to do with the money instead. If he had simply counted the savings as a profit to the treasury, I would have been the first to express my dissatisfaction. Instead, he has taken the £36 billion and allocated it to a long list of important projects across the northern transport network that will truly benefit our country’s cities, not just our cities.

However, he then went a step further and, in addition to this list of projects, gave local leaders like me a huge amount of new money to spend on any projects that we believe are in the interests of the areas we represent .

So what does this mean for Teesside? That means we now have £978 million that we didn’t have at the start of this week. This means we can now adapt our transport infrastructure to the UK’s major cities. This means we can finally connect our communities to our city centers and the economic opportunities we create. A train that takes you a few minutes faster between two cities where major investments have already been made is not a level up – it is.

And while I don’t blame people like Andy Burnham for making such a fuss – it’s his job to speak exclusively for Manchester’s interests – the British government has to make decisions in the interests of everyone, and I don’t know how You could argue from the bottom of your heart that distributing £36 billion to cities across our country is not a better use of public money.

What puzzles me, however, is when Labor MPs here on Teesside, like Andy McDonald, are upset about this decision, falsely claiming it is not new money, and putting the priorities of Manchester above the needs of the people of Middlesbrough. It’s completely absurd and just illustrates the worst about politics.

He prefers to refuse to inject £1bn of new cash directly into the region just because he doesn’t like who’s giving it to us. I find this difficult to understand and am disappointed that the Labor Party has chosen this path.

As we begin to deliver these transformation projects for this area, he needs to explain to people why he would rather have a train to Manchester than invest in Teesside.

The task will now focus on how we spend this money, but I will not be rushed. A billion unrestricted and untied transportation funds is a big responsibility and we need to get it right.

We will not make the same mistakes we have made as a country before on projects like HS2 and will ensure this money is invested in a way that truly revolutionizes transport on Teesside.

This money will not be used for transportation projects that have already begun. Work is currently underway to identify the new projects we will move forward as a direct result of this announcement.

Let me be clear. We had no benefit with HS2. Now that it’s gone we have a billion pounds we wouldn’t have had. I ask everyone to tell me that this is not a great victory for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.


The Northern Echo: Ben Houchen

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