HS2 is gone and quite frankly good riddance. This was a project that allowed people to get from Birmingham to Manchester a few minutes faster and brought absolutely no benefit to Teesside or the wider North East.

Simply put, I would not have been representing this area properly if I had followed the party line over the past decade and supported what is such a colossal waste of money.

I have been consistently clear that HS2 is a white elephant, and I am delighted that the Prime Minister has shown common sense leadership and decided that as a nation we cannot keep throwing good money after bad. This decision to scrap HS2 needed to be taken in the national interest.

What is more positive still is what Rishi Sunak has decided to with the money instead. Had he simply put the savings down as a win for the exchequer I would have been the first to show my dissatisfaction. Instead, he has taken the £36bn and committed it to a long list of critical projects across the northern transport network that will truly benefit the towns not just the cities of our country.

However, he has then gone further still, and alongside this list of projects, he has given local leaders like me a huge amount of new money to spend on any projects that we believe to be in the interests of the areas we represent.

So, what does this mean for Teesside? It means that we now have £978m that we didn’t have earlier this week. It means that we can now bring our transport infrastructure in line with the major cities of the UK. It means we can finally connect our communities to our town centres and the economic opportunities we are creating. A train that gets you between two cities that have already seen huge investment a few minutes faster is not levelling up – this is.

And while I don’t blame the likes Andy Burnham for kicking up a fuss – it’s his job to speak purely for the interests of Manchester – the UK Government must take decisions in the interest of everyone, and I don’t know how anyone in their heart of hearts could argue that £36bn distributed to towns and cities across our nation is not a better use of public money.

What does confuse me however is when Labour MPs here on Teesside, like Andy McDonald, choose to get angry about this decision, falsely suggest it is not new money, and back the priorities of Manchester over the needs of the people of Middlesbrough. It is utterly absurd and just illustrates the worst of politics.

He would rather turn down £1bn of new cash direct to the area just because he doesn’t like who is giving us it. I find that hard to comprehend and it disappoints me that the Labour Party has chosen to go down this route.

When we begin to deliver these transformational projects for this area, he will have to explain to people why he would rather have a train to Manchester over investment for Teesside.

The task will now turn to how we spend this money, but I won’t be rushed. One billion of unrestricted and uncommitted transport cash is a huge responsibility and we must get it right.

We will not make the same mistakes that we have made as a country before on projects like HS2 and will make sure that this money is invested in such a way that transport on Teesside is truly revolutionised.

This money will not be used on any of the transport projects we have already started, and work is underway to identify the new projects that we will bring forward as a direct result of this announcement.

Let me be clear. With HS2 we got zero benefit. Now that it is gone we have £1bn that we would not have had. I task anyone to tell me that this is not a big win for Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool.


The Northern Echo: Ben Houchen