Chancellor Jeremy Hunt pledged his support for schemes such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in the Autumn Statement, although his refusal to keep commitments in line with inflation means projects could be delayed.
The chancellor pledged support for infrastructure projects and said he would “not cut a penny from our capital budget” in the next two years.
Although this means the Government “is not growing our capital budget as planned”, it will still spend £600bn over the next five years, Hunt said.
The chancellor maintained commitments to delivering the “core” Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme, the High Speed Rail 2 link to Manchester and to the Sizewell C nuclear power plant.
Northern Powerhouse Partnership chief executive Henri Murison welcomed the news that HS2 would not be scrapped but said there was no mention of a commitment made in the Integrated Rail Plan of a study on running HS2 trains to Leeds.
He said the Government was “selling the North short” by not committing to the full Northern Powerhouse Rail plan. The core scheme involves a new high speed line and upgrades of existing lines to electrify routes between Warrington, Manchester and York. The full proposal incorporated extensions to Bradford and Hull.
Campaigners criticised Hunt failing to scrap flagship road infrastructure projects such as the Lower Thames Crossing and the Stonehenge Tunnel.
Chris Todd, Director of Transport Action Network said: “Jeremy Hunt has spurned a golden opportunity to ease the pain of millions of people around the country in order to continue with the Government’s vanity road building programme. Many of the roads will cost more than they will ever deliver in economic benefit. They make no economic sense at all, while also helping speed us along the road to climate breakdown.
“Some like the deeply unpopular Lower Thames Crossing and the Stonehenge Tunnel threaten both the economy and people’s quality of life and should be scrapped. They will undermine our ability to meet the deeply challenging climate targets that the Government says it is committed to. Rather than address these concerns, the Government’s response is to strip away environmental protections and speed up building these damaging schemes.”
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