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HS2 Leeds link cut amid government promise to transform rail

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.

He said it showed the government was acting on its levelling up agenda.

But Mr Shapps faces accusations he is watering down promises, although anti-HS2 campaigners welcomed the news.

There was also criticism that a significant portion of the GBP96bn pledged as new investment has already been announced, such as GBP360m to improve ticketing.

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 scrapped.

Delivering his Integrated Transport Plan (ITP), 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.

Mr Shapps said on Thursday: “This new blueprint delivers three high-speed lines. First, that’s Crewe to Manchester.

“Second, Birmingham to the East Midlands with HS2 trains continuing to central Nottingham and central Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield on an upgraded mainline.

“And third, a brand new high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester and to the western border of Yorkshire – slashing journey times across the north.”

‘Betrayed’

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 said the package abandoned previous assurances given on the extension of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

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.”

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: “Not only as a resident of Bramley, but as a taxpayer. It’s a complete waste of money.
“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.

“This village and other villages have been under this blight for five and a half years. People have already sold up and moved out because they can’t live with the stress.”

She has spent five and half years fighting the original plans, which would have seen the high-speed line cut through the east side of the village as it followed the M18 motorway.

There was also praise for the announcement from business and rail leaders in the Midlands.

Sir John Peace, chair of Midlands Connect 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.”

Now there is certainty over projects in the region, the challenge for the government is to “move as quickly as possible to get spades in the ground and bring benefits to local people sooner”.

Read more:
HS2 Leeds link cut amid government promise to transform rail

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