Cancelling Yorkshire leg of HS2 'would be like relegating Leeds United to the Championship', claims Northern Powerhouse Partnership

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Cancelling the Eastern leg of HS2 through Yorkshire would be like instantly relegating Leeds United and Sheffield United back to the Championship, it is claimed.

Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership urged the Government to get "spades in the ground" on the section of the high speed route between Leeds and Birmingham amid reports that it could be scrapped or delayed.

It comes as the parliamentary Bill for Phase 2a of HS2 between Birmingham and Crewe received royal assent, a year on from Boris Johnson's announcement that he was to press ahead with the controversial project.

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Boris Johnson can't afford to build HS2 into Yorkshire and improve local rail li...
Boris Johnson hailed the approval of Phase 2a as "a landmark moment in our infrastructure revolution". Pic: PABoris Johnson hailed the approval of Phase 2a as "a landmark moment in our infrastructure revolution". Pic: PA
Boris Johnson hailed the approval of Phase 2a as "a landmark moment in our infrastructure revolution". Pic: PA

This will allow HS2 Ltd to begin work on constructing the next phase of the new high-speed railway between Crewe and Birmingham, while construction of the first stage of the project between the West Midlands and London is already underway

But while route modifications are now being made to the Western leg of Phase 2b between Crewe and Manchester, the future of the Eastern leg between Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds remains uncertain.

Though the Prime Minister says he remains committed to the route, the National Infrastructure Commission which advises him has recommended prioritising local rail routes with the Government's infrastructure budget rather than the Eastern leg.

The Integrated Rail Plan, which sets out how HS2 will link up with other major projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Transpennine Route Upgrade, will be published in the coming weeks.

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Mr Murison, whose organisation lobbies on behalf of business and civic leaders in the North, said Phase 2A getting Royal Assent was "another significant step towards getting the rail network the North needs and deserves".

But he said: "Crucially it is not the whole of the North – the Eastern leg is still is some considerable doubt. We need to be clear – only by delivering HS2 in full, right the way to Manchester and Liverpool as well as Leeds and up to Newcastle, can we ever expect to see the transformational economic benefits that high-speed rail can deliver.

Leeds United have only just got back in the Premier League – cancelling HS2 in the East would be like instantly relegating them and Sheffield United back to the Championship.

"This week the Prime Minister once again said he was committed to the Eastern leg of HS2. Business and civic leaders alike will hope this promise holds true, as this is the first real test of his levelling up agenda.

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"We need to get spades in the ground, starting building from Leeds to Birmingham via Toton, as well as delivering a new Northern Powerhouse Rail line through Bradford to Manchester."

Mr Johnson today hailed the approval of Phase 2a as "a landmark moment in our infrastructure revolution".

He said: “HS2 is the most significant expansion to our national railways in a generation – transforming connectivity between our towns and cities and vastly increasing the capacity of our rail network. By proceeding full steam ahead, we are delivering on our commitment to unite and level up the country."

And Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Whatever your view of this project, HS2 is now a reality – heading north, creating jobs and building a brighter future for our country.

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"This vital project is at the heart of the Government’s commitments to build back better from the pandemic, tackle the North-South divide and drive growth across the country.

“The signing of the Phase 2a Bill into law is an historic milestone for this ambitious project, which is already creating and supporting thousands of jobs across the UK. I look forward to seeing spades in the ground to get this section built and deliver the benefits of high-speed rail to the North as swiftly as possible.”