The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has emphasized that if the high-speed rail link from Manchester to Birmingham is abandoned due to escalating costs, Wales should receive a share of the funding allocated to HS2 in England.
Reports suggest that the Prime Minister may opt to cancel this section of the line. According to Drakeford, the “flimsy case” against providing additional funding to Wales from the project would become untenable if these reports turn out to be accurate.
The project is officially designated as an England and Wales endeavour.
Although HS2 does not cross the border, the UK government has maintained that it will enhance reliability, connectivity, and capacity across UK routes, including those serving Wales.
In March, it was disclosed that the Birmingham to Crewe section, a key link to North Wales, would be postponed by two years to control costs. Furthermore, a segment of the route between the East Midlands and Leeds has already been canceled.
Typically, when UK ministers allocate funds for matters devolved to Wales, such as healthcare and education in England, it triggers additional funding for Wales. However, since most rail infrastructure falls outside of devolved powers and HS2 is classified as an England-and-Wales project, no supplementary funding is earmarked for the Welsh government.
All political parties represented in the Senedd, including the Welsh Conservatives, have united in urging the UK government to provide additional funding for Wales in light of HS2’s implications.
During First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday, Mr Drakeford replied to a question from Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth who said HS2 was “never a project to benefit Wales”.
“If there is to be no link beyond Birmingham then the flimsy case for regarding this as an England and Wales development collapses completely.
“And at that point, the case for making sure of a consequential for Wales will be stronger still.
“Wales has already missed out on £270m as a result of HS2 misclassification in the current spending review period, that will only grow beyond that unless and until this misclassification is put right.”
“It’s beyond any doubt that this is an England-only project improving England’s railways at our expense.
“The billions of HS2 consequentials being withheld from Wales could have a transformative impact on our country, including transport system,” he said.
HS2 was initially designed to establish rail connectivity between London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds, with the inclusion of connections extending from Crewe to North Wales.
Mr. Sunak has stated his intention not to rush into a premature decision regarding the future of HS2.
He emphasised that a substantial sum of money is being invested in the high-speed rail project, underscoring the importance of making a well-considered, long-term decision.
Greater clarity on this matter is anticipated to be provided during the Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservative conference scheduled for later today.