So much for levelling up. The UK government’s majority rests on promises to northern voters in 2019 to get Brexit done but also to boost investment in their infrastructure and public services. Now Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, is planning to scrap the HS2 rail line north of Birmingham. He won’t confirm it yet but as things stand he’s expected to at the Conservative party conference next month. Two observations: yes, money is tight (Brexit has consequences), but the arguments for borrowing to invest like this are stronger than for borrowing to fund the government, and the backlash will hit Sunak from his own party grandees as well as Labour. Second – on the other side of the ledger – critics of the whole HS2 boondoggle have a point. Its only surefire winners are the contractors who’ve already been paid more than £20 billion, and the original rationale for high-speed rail is being undermined by tech. You can meet by Zoom at the speed of light, and EVs will have made motorways much greener by the time the lonely southern section of the line finally opens… if it ever does.
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