Northern leaders have reacted with dismay to further claims that HS2’s eastern leg to Leeds may be scrapped, while some “red wall” Tory MPs celebrated the mooted demise of a “hugely expensive white elephant”.
All summer, leaks from Whitehall have suggested the government is set to ditch plans to extend the high-speed rail to Leeds. The latest, in the Sunday Mirror, quoted an anonymous source as saying that halting the eastern leg will save £40bn and “there’s no way we’re going to see this built in our lifetimes”.
The Department for Transport denied the decision had been made, saying the much-delayed Integrated Rail Plan will “soon” outline the way ahead for major rail projects. That will include HS2 phase B, which was supposed to contain the western leg to Manchester and the eastern leg to Leeds.
Henri Murison, the director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which represents northern businesses, 警告: “Without the western and eastern legs to Manchester and Sheffield on to Leeds as well as into north-east England, the whole of HS2 will be undermined in achieving its full economic benefits.”
James Lewis, the leader of Leeds city council, said the latest leak jeopardised 10 years of planning and consultation that had gained cross-party support along the eastern route. “I will be hugely disappointed if we are back to the drawing board,“ 他说. “The constant pipeline of projects in London moving forward suggests that levelling up isn’t in operation.”
Leeds station is currently the busiest in the north, and is a notorious bottleneck. HS2 was supposed to include a new station in the city.
Tracy Brabin, the mayor of West Yorkshire, 说: “The government cannot talk about levelling up and a commitment to the north without addressing the decades of underinvestment across our transport networks.
“The eastern leg of HS2 is essential to providing the rail services that work for our communities, as part of a joined-up transport system that connects people to better jobs, better education, and more opportunities.”
Others celebrated the notion HS2 might never reach Yorkshire. Alexander Stafford, MP for the Rother Valley, is among several opponents to HS2 among the Conservatives’ 2019 red wall intake.
他说: “What we need is the money invested in transport infrastructure that might actually bring a tangible benefit to seats like mine. We need a better bus service and better links to Manchester across the pennines rather than a hugely expensive white elephant that is sucking resources out of areas like mine and will only benefit a tiny number of people living in central Leeds.”
Supporters of HS2 argue the project is about opening up capacity and connectivity with both the west and east coast mainlines full, pre-Covid. It is currently projected to cost at least £103bn.
Speculation has been rife that HS2 would never reach Yorkshire since January 2020, when the newly appointed HS2 minister, Andrew Stephenson, pledged to “bring forward legislation to bring high-speed rail into Manchester as soon as practical” but made no mention of Leeds.
在十月, Transport for the North, the statutory body that advises the government on the region’s transport needs, expressed fears that scenarios the government was considering “all fall short of what is needed for full funding of HS2” as well as Northern Powerhouse Rail, a new trans-Pennine line.
Then in July, the government asked HS2 Ltd – the company set up in 2009 to develop, build and operate HS2 – to pause work on the eastern spur but proceed with development of the western spur (from Crewe to Manchester).
That month, West Midlands mayor Andy Street, formerly one of HS2’s biggest champions, told shocked MPs that he thought the eastern leg was not necessary for businesses in his region.
A western leg bill is being prepared for deposit to parliament in early 2022, HS2 Ltd said.
Murison suggested the eastern leg was not dead yet because the prime minister, chancellor and transport secretary have not yet formally discussed the integrated rail plan.
“A number of advisers in Whitehall have never liked this project, and told newspapers regularly on Sundays the project would be cancelled before the prime minister fully recommitted to it,“ 他说.
He urged the government to go ahead with the whole project, but “building from the north down as should have happened originally”.