Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on Wednesday 4 October, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the completion of the HS2 project would be scrapped and replaced with investment into transport projects across the country.
This comes as multiple pubs have already been demolished or closed as part of the construction to make way for the high-speed railway line, including the Fox and Grapes and The Woodman in Birmingham as well as the Bree Louise in Euston, London.
JW Lees managing director William Lees-Jones described the announcement as a “travesty” and “very disappointing”.
He said: “Pubs will be okay, but the northern business community has been hung out to dry - business needs to be able to travel and whether we like it or not getting to London is important.”
Less-Jones added he felt “very let down” on hearing the news and that “levelling up means nothing to this Government.”
“It's such a waste and will need to be built at some point so the cost needs controlling, and some sensible people put in charge of the project”, he continued.
However, the Prime Minister explained the plans had been cancelled due to spiralling costs and that only the Birmingham to London part of the line would be built, meaning the northern leg, between Birmingham and Manchester, as well as the eastern line to East Midlands Parkway, would no longer go ahead.
Though to show hospitality businesses it understands the challenges currently faced by the sector, the managing director urged the Government to reduce beer duty, reduce VAT and implement the “much-promised review” of business rates.
In his speech, the Prime Minister also announced while the rest of the HS2 project would be stopped, it would be replaced with ‘Network North’, a new transport project tasked with improving and upgraded current systems.
The conference also saw Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announce an increase to the National Living Wage and the introduction of a new qualification for school leavers in place of A levels, which UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls described as “long overdue”.
Regarding HS2, Nicholls said: “It’s very disappointing that a major infrastructure project like HS2 is being scrapped but investment in transport across the north of England, connecting cities and improving transport links, is positive.”
“This investment will benefit commuters and leisure travellers alike. It is important the country is as interconnected as possible and that infrastructure projects remain under constant review.”