CHANCELLOR George Osborne stopped off in Leeds to reassure the city it WILL get its much-anticipated high-speed rail hub - but couldn’t promise it will arrive any earlier than 2032.
The Government this week gave the go-ahead for the £32 billion HS2 project that will drastically reduce journey times between major UK cities.
Phase one of the scheme, linking London to Birmingham, could be completed by 2026, However Leeds - along with Manchester - will have to wait until 2032 at the earliest.
Speaking to the YEP from the platform at Leeds Railway Station, Mr Osborne said: “We are bringing the high-speed rail link to Yorkshire and Leeds. Some people have questioned whether that was going to happen. “I hope my presence here today is an assurance that we are absolutely committed to linking Leeds to the Midlands and the South, and I think that it will change the economic geography of our country for the better.”
Asked why the city had to wait 20 years behind London and Birmingham, and whether Leeds was being sidelined as the poor cousin, Mr Osborne insisted: “Not at all”
“We have made a choice of the big cities we are going to link up. Leeds is there as one of the big four,” he said.
“We haven’t actually built this country a new railway line across the country since the Victorian age, so [it] does take some time. I think it’s better to have a plan that is going to take some years to come to fruition but is going to make a real difference.”
He stressed the link would bring the city jobs and economic benefits at both the national and local level.
“It links Birmingham to Leeds and will also greatly reduce the journey time between Leeds and Sheffield. So it’s got direct local benefits as well. In the short term for people here in Leeds, we are investing in the local infrastructure for transport, a new Southern entrance for the station and electrifying the line, as well other things like apprenticeships and enterprise.
“Leeds is very important. It’s one of the greatest cities sin Europe and it’s fantastic that we are going to be able to make these improvements to it.”
Phase one of HS2, costing £16.4 billion, will cut London to Birmingham journey times to 49 minutes. Phase 2, taking HS2 to Manchester and Leeds, would be completed around 2032/33.