Boris scraps HS2 route to Leeds

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The Prime Minister has appeared to confirm reports that the HS2 route to Leeds has been scrapped

Writing in the Yorkshire Post, Boris Johnson seemed to confirm that plans for HS2 Phase 2b to Leeds has been scrapped in favour of smaller rail upgrades across the north of England.

The £96bn Integrated Rail Plan will help transform services across the Midlands and north of England cutting journey times ten years earlier than planned.

Full details of the plan will finally be revealed by transport secretary Grant Shapps later today (18 November).

‘High-speed rail is grindingly slow to build’

Johnson said: “HS2 will come to Sheffield, meaning a trip to or from London will take just 1 hour 27 minutes – precisely the same as under the old HS2 plans, and fully half an hour faster than now. And we’ll look at how to get HS2 to Leeds too, with a new study on the best way to make it happen.

“But high-speed rail is grindingly slow to build. Under the original blueprint, first drawn up more than a decade ago, Yorkshire would have not have seen the benefits of our investment until at least the 2040s.

“Levelling up can’t wait that long. And towns like Wakefield, Doncaster, Dewsbury and Huddersfield would have suffered as trains were taken off the existing main lines.

“So rather than just waiting for another two decades for a scheme that snubs much of Yorkshire, we will do more, and sooner.”

HS2 was originally meant to connect London with the city centres of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

HS2 Phase 2b would have cut the time of a rail journey from Leeds to London to just 81 minutes, from its current time of 133 minutes. Leeds to Birmingham would have been reduced to just 49 minutes instead of currently around 113 minutes.

“The demise of Phase 2b, East Midlands-Leeds HS2 high-speed line, clouds the original vision of HS2 as a dynamic North/South link in line with the levelling up agenda.

“The concern is whether the government will row back on other infrastructure ‘commitments’. A solid project pipeline is the lifeblood of our sector,” said Suneeta Johal CEO CEA, (Construction Equipment Association).

‘Ensuring a coherent pipeline of work for rail investment needs to be a priority’

Andy Bell, director at Ramboll in the UK, and chair of ACE’s transport group, commented: “Just 18 months ago the Prime Minister told Parliament in a statement following the Oakervee review, that it ‘does not make any sense’ to build Northern Powerhouse Rail without HS2 and the Government’s strategy was to do both ‘simultaneously’.

“Clearly the pandemic has strained public finances since then, but another change of approach does not help an engineering sector scaling up skills and resources – at a time of global demand for rail expertise – around what appeared to be clear commitments and pledges.

“The priority now must be to make the new approach deliver for both society and the Net Zero economy we must build. This means ensuring that the schemes that do go ahead increase rail freight capacity and encourage people out of cars, while also ensuring that they are designed as part of broader place-based regeneration strategies.

“With the change from Network Rail to GB Rail another potential complicating factor, ensuring a coherent and dependable pipeline of work for efficient rail investment needs to be a priority for the Department for Transport.

“Only then will rail be able to effectively contribute to improving the lives of people in communities across the UK.”

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