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HS2 rail extension to Leeds scrapped – BBC News

 

HS2 map

 

The government has scrapped the Leeds leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line as part of a package that ministers promise will transform services.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told the Commons the overhaul will bring faster journeys up to 10 years earlier than planned.

HS2 trains were to run on a new East Midlands-Leeds high-speed line, but will now run on existing routes.

Critics accused Mr Shapps of breaking investment promises.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said it was “the betrayal of trust, the betrayal of promises and the betrayal of investment the north of England and the Midlands deserve”.

He told MPs: “There is no amount of gloss, no amount of spin that can be put on this.”

There was also criticism that a significant portion of the £96bn pledged as new investment has already been announced, such as £360m to improve ticketing.

But Mr Shapps said the package showed the government was acting on its levelling up agenda.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed it as a “monumental programme for rail investment”.

“The way to cut costs on train travel is to modernise, and to electrify, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

Modernising and boosting capacity was a way to get more passengers on to the rail network. “If you have a huge number of passengers, then you can start to drive… the cost down.

“You also need to modernise the staffing and you need to look at the way things work on the railways generally – that’s not something that we can ignore.”

 

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The new Integrated Rail Plan includes:

  • The completion of HS2 from Crewe to Manchester, with new stations at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly
  • A new high-speed line between Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway
  • The delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail via a new high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden in Yorkshire
  • The upgrading or electrification of the existing Midland Main Line, East Coast Main Line and Transpennine Main Line
  • A new mass transit system for Leeds and West Yorkshire
  • Money for a programme of fares and ticketing reform, including contactless pay-as-you-go ticketing in the North and Midlands
  • A study to look at the best way to take HS2 trains to Leeds, including capacity at Leeds Station

 

Presentational grey line

 

HS2 was originally planned to connect London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. But the HS2 route between the East Midlands and Leeds will now be axed.

There is also a scaling back of a new Trans-Pennine rail route between Manchester and Leeds as part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project to improve links between major northern cities.

The route between Leeds and Manchester will now be a combination of new track and enhancements to existing infrastructure.

Tory MP Robbie Moore, whose Keighley seat sits close to Bradford, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the plan, which had “completely short-changed” his constituents.

Bradford had expected to be included on the proposed Leeds to Manchester route and to see a station built to accommodate new trains.

“We are one of the most socially deprived parts of the UK and we must get better transport connectivity,” Mr Moore said.

Delivering the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), Mr Shapps told MPs it was an “ambitious and unparalleled programme” to overhaul inter-city links across the north and Midlands, and “speed up the benefits for local areas and serves destinations people most want to reach”.

Work has already started on the first phase of HS2, linking London and the West Midlands. The next section will extend the line to Crewe.

The final phase was to take HS2 to Manchester and Leeds.

 

HS2 train

Siemens

Commenting on plans for rail links between the East Midlands to Leeds, Mr Shapps said: “We’ll study how best to take HS2 trains into Leeds as well”.

However, that is likely to be via upgrades to existing rail network, a move condemned by MPs and regional business leaders who said a high-speed line was vital to the economic growth of the Midlands and north England.

Labour MP Hilary Benn, who represents Leeds Central, said: “Today that promise has been broken, and Leeds and the North have been betrayed.”

Andy Bagnall, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said: “While millions of people will benefit from this major investment in boosting connectivity between major cities in the North of England and the Midlands, leaving out key pieces of the jigsaw will inevitably hold back the ability for the railways to power the levelling up agenda and the drive to net zero.”

 

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Analysis

by Katy Austin, BBC transport correspondent

The government’s argument is that faster delivery at lower cost is now the best approach. It also makes the case for putting cash towards better local services, not just high speed inter-city connections.

That won’t wash with those who will accept nothing but the original proposals for both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – with their full capacity benefits, as well as journey times. They feel a promise is being broken.

Bradford is one example of this; a city whose leaders view a new, full high-speed link to both Manchester and Leeds as essential to regeneration.

Opponents of HS2 – a controversial project – will see today’s news as a relief. Although the door has not been fully closed to the eastern leg being completed at some future date.

However, businesses in Yorkshire who hoped HS2 would bring jobs, investment and confidence, albeit not for a while, feel that opportunity has just been diminished.

Labour also point out that despite the £96bn label, much of this money had already been earmarked for HS2.

 

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‘Waste of money’

News that part of HS2 was being scrapped was met with “elation” by campaigners against the line.

Sandra Haith, from an anti-HS2 group in Bramley, Rotherham, said she was pleased, “not only as a resident of Bramley, but as a taxpayer. It’s a complete waste of money”.

 

Anti-HS campaigners

 

She said: “The eastern leg costs a lot of money and it basically connects two cities. We can’t get on it. We’ve got all the pain and no gain.”

However, business people warned about the economic loss from scrapping the HS2 line. James Greenhalgh, who runs the Flamingos Coffee House, in Leeds, told the BBC it would deter investment in the city.

“We want to encourage other businesses to move up from London, up to Leeds, get people moving around and coming to our city centre. It is really tough, it is stopping businesses from expanding,” he said.

There was praise, though, from business leaders at regional trade body Midlands Connect.

Chairman Sir John Peace said: “Although these plans are different in some respects to what we’d expected, there are a lot of positives in here and lots of things to be excited about – a new high-speed connection between Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway, direct links onto HS2 for Derby, Nottingham, and Chesterfield and a commitment to the Midlands Rail Hub.”

 

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