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  • hammaad saghir

Government Diverts HS2 Funding to £4.7bn Local Transport Fund in Bold Policy Shift

The government has unveiled plans to enhance transportation infrastructure in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas across the North and Midlands, promising improved bus services, expanded EV charging networks, and pothole repairs. This initiative comes as part of a £4.7bn allocation through the newly established Local Transport Fund, following the redirection of funds saved from scrapping the northern leg of the HS2 rail project.

According to government officials, this funding will catalyze a wave of projects aimed at alleviating congestion, enhancing public transport accessibility, and reducing emissions. However, the announcement has drawn immediate criticism from the Labour opposition, who argue that it underscores years of underinvestment in regional transport networks.

The Local Transport Fund, scheduled to commence distribution from April next year, allocates £2.5bn for projects in the North and £2.2bn for projects in the Midlands. With funding available until 2032, the focus will be addressing longstanding grievances of smaller cities, towns, and rural areas regarding inadequate transport infrastructure investment.

Over the seven-year span of the fund, local authorities can expect investments averaging at least nine times higher than current allocations through the Local Integrated Transport Block. This shift empowers local leaders to prioritize crucial transport projects tailored to their communities' needs.

Authorities are encouraged to propose diverse projects, including road construction and pothole repair initiatives, expansions of mass transit systems, congestion mitigation measures, increased deployment of electric vehicle charging stations, upgrades to bus and train stations, and improvements in pedestrian safety around schools.

Speaking ahead of a Cabinet meeting in Yorkshire today, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "We have a clear plan to level up our country with greater transport links that people need and deliver the right long-term change for a brighter future. Through reallocating HS2 funding, we're not only investing billions of pounds directly back into our smaller cities, towns, and rural areas across the North and Midlands, but we are also empowering their local leaders to invest in the transport projects that matter most to their communities - this is leveling up in action."

His comments were echoed by Transport Secretary Mark Harper, who said: "Today's £4.7bn investment is truly game-changing for the smaller cities, towns, and rural communities across the North and the Midlands and is only possible because this government has a plan to improve local transport and is willing to take tough decisions like reallocating funding from the second phase of HS2.

"This funding boost will make a real difference to millions of people, empowering local authorities to drive economic growth, transform communities, and improve the daily transport connections people rely on for years to come."

The government underscores that the Local Transport Fund is part of a broader strategy, complemented by City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements and the extension of England's £2 bus fare cap. However, despite these initiatives, the decision to cancel the northern leg of HS2 remains contentious, with ongoing concerns about cost overruns and operational logistics. Critics question the efficacy of reallocating funds from HS2 and urge transparency in reallocation.

Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh slammed today's announcement, arguing that "the Conservative record speaks for itself - record delays and cancellations on the rail network, 22 million more potholes, and a record-breaking collapse in bus routes".

"Only the Conservatives could have the brass neck to promise yet another 'transformation' of transport infrastructure in the Midlands and north after 14 years of countless broken promises to do just that," she added.


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