There was welcome news in Rishi Sunak’s announcements last week. There are many questions too. The welcome news from his announcement is that the £35bn that will be saved from axing HS2 north of Birmingham will not go into tax reductions or paying off some of the public debt but will be distributed around the country to fund roads, rail, and bus projects. Note the thinking there. Roads number one and rail number two. Buses are placed where they have always been, lagging at the end of sentences (and at the end of funding).

Despite that, there may be money for rural bus services across Shropshire, including a demand responsive service to villages and hamlets. Improvements to park and ride sites are promised but there is no indication that this will extend beyond Shrewsbury to Ludlow. The Gobowen Oswestry rail link will be reinstated. The North West Relief Road around Shrewsbury will be funded, though it is not clear it will be fully funded.

Diverting money to other transport projects from the grandiose, unaffordable HS2 is welcome. We need much more detail before we know whether we are on the right to track to improve transport around the country.


The announcements contained a commitment to improving bus transport. This includes a continuation of the £2 fare cap for single bus journeys until the end of 2024, which is great news. We need to encourage people to use buses and leave their cars at home. It would have been even better if Mr Sunak had confirmed that the fare cap was permanent.

It looks like the government may commitment to Rural Connect, Shropshire Council’s plan for a demand responsive minibus service serving rural villages and hamlets. The council has lost out on government funding twice for this scheme. Rural Connect will help end rural isolation, allowing people to travel to work, shops and medical centres as well as socialise. Any funding for rural bus services in Shropshire must be a long term commitment, with sufficient money to establish the service and keep it running.

Rural Connect will work alongside existing community bus schemes including Ludlow Traveller and Church Stretton Ring and Ride. While community buses are likely to continue to be booked by phone, Rural Connect will have the option of booking online, in some areas at short notice.

Park and Ride

The announcement includes funding for improving park and rides in Shropshire. The Ludlow site is probably the worst park and ride owned by any council in the country. It is an embarrassment to Ludlow and the county. The facility is desperately in need of repair and upgrading. It would be unacceptable if all the government money was swallowed up by the Shrewsbury park and ride sites.

The worst council owned park and ride site in the country


It goes without saying that the £8.5bn for fixing potholes will be welcomed by all road users, though we don’t know when the money will be available. It does not, though, address the fundamental problem with roads. They are falling apart. Locally, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on patching on potholes on Upper Galdeford and the south end of Parys Road, the roads are at the point of failure. There is a long list of roads, especially country roads that are failing.

Fixing potholes works well with the populist press. One million potholes fixed! Ten million potholes fixed! One billion million potholes fixed! Okay, that last bit is an exaggeration. But this is an announcement designed to grab headlines, not solve the problem of our decaying infrastructure. That will take billions more.

Sunak has diverted money intended for infrastructure to maintaining roads.

High Speed 2

News that Rishi Sunak was to scrap HS2 was extensively leaked to the media, with Sunak insisting until the last moment that no decision had been made and a decision would be made in due course. That doesn’t tally with the facts. Mr Sunak had prepared a video announced days before and the Department for Transport had prepared the press releases in time to release them minutes before the prime minister stood up to speak.

The leak of the news may explain why the press releases for each of the English regions and for Wales show that transport officials in Whitehall have hurriedly combed through unfunded projects and selected enough to match the £35 billion promise. This has process has a major flaw. Many of the bids are a few years old. That means the financial estimates will be out of date because of inflation, which has been higher in the construction sector because of labour shortages after the pandemic and Brexit. Some projects had already been built and the DfT has since dropped at least one project and officials have clarified others. Given that Treasury officials were preparing for cancellation of the line weeks ago this shows how chaotic this government has become.

HS2 was and has been environmentally destructive, trashing precious landscapes. It has used so much concrete in its construction it will have been decades before it became carbon neutral. The business case was marginal, even dodgy, based on outdated assumptions. How it is a railway to nowhere. A monument to overambition and bad management.

The cancellation of the line north of Birmingham will be a relief to Woore in the northwest of the county, which was set to be on a haulage route.

HS2 has had a huge opportunity cost. Many projects have not proceeded or have been delayed indefinitely because HS2 sucked up the money, monopolised the pool of skilled workers and engineers and distracted politicians and civil servants from the decaying rail, bus and road infrastructure that permeates Britain.

The decision has been made. It cannot be reversed because Rishi Sunak will sell off land and properties already purchased to help pay compensation for contractors already lined up to do the work.

Even with this sell off, there remain many problems. Getting HS2 trains to Manchester without clogging up the limited line capacity. Getting the line from Old Oak Common to Euston will require private funding.


Rishi Sunak thinks of himself as the change prime minister, even to the extent of denigrating previous Conservative government for seeking consensus across politics. He didn’t get a boost in the polls he was looking for after his conference speech. Infrastructure planning in this country is a wreck. So is the Conservative government.

6 thought on “What the cancellation of HS2 north of Birmingham means for Shropshire”
  1. The NW relief road being funded is NOT good news. The irreparable damage HS2 has done to nature and biodiversity is being repeated to build this 4 Mile bit of tarmac. .

  2. There was a sensible reason HS2 was being built. The West Coast Mainline has been full to capacity for a few years. The Midland and East coast routes aren’t far behind. HS2 was designed as a way of diverting the fast trains from all 3 lines to London in order to give a lot more space for freight and local passenger trains. It’s business case was destroyed by the cancellation of the eastern branch to Leeds and removing the Manchester branch seals it’s fate as a white elephant.

    It’s true that COVID has seen train ridership fall but this was a plan to increase capacity for the next 100 years. They should have been funding the buses anyway and the NW relief road can get in the


    Documents detailing projects to be funded with savings from scrapping HS2 deleted from government website

    “Government documents that were abruptly deleted after appearing online with announcements of new transport projects were just giving “examples” of what savings from the scrapping of HS2’s northern leg could be spent on, a minister has claimed.”

    Don’t hold your breath Andy!

    1. Why be surprised? Just like the NHS money on the side of the bus in the referendum – they are just suggestions not promises.

  4. I have resigned from the local Wild Life Society because of its narrow minded hostility to HS2.
    This a is a project that should be completed, we have been left with a mess, £2b to be spent on a new Bradford interchange, well £2b at todays prices, tremendous concern us to how the Marsden tunnel is going to be improved, ignoring the warning of the Attorney General of the huge bill the government is going to face from all the compensation seeking Court cases it will inevitably generate, ordering high speed rolling stock that will not tilt on the West Coast Main line etc etc. It all gives the appearance of being a policy dreamt up on the spur of the moment without considering the real and true consequences. The hostility I have heard over the years mirrored what many NIMBYs said in the 1950s about the planned Motorway system but we got on and did it, “taking swathes out of the countryside”let alone the opposition to the creation and expansion of railway 150 – 170 years ago.


    1. “ It all gives the appearance of being a policy dreamt up on the spur of the moment without considering the real and true consequences.”
      Couldn’t sum up the whole HS2 catastrophe from its very beginnings
      The trouble is that since the building of the Railways the consequences of it have become rather more existential

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