Delaying or cancelling HS2 in Yorkshire would be 'economically illiterate', say Northern leaders

Henri Murison, director of the Nothern Powerhouse Partnership.Henri Murison, director of the Nothern Powerhouse Partnership.
Henri Murison, director of the Nothern Powerhouse Partnership.
High-speed rail scheme HS2 being cancelled or delayed in  Yorkshire would be “economically illiterate”, it has been claimed, as more pressure is piled on the Government to commit to the major transport project in full.

Concerns that the eastern leg of the network could be set back by up to 20 years were reported in The Sunday Times yesterday.

It said that North of England and Midlands leaders are “fighting with the Government behind the scenes” on what they believe will be a “phased delivery” of the 120-mile eastern leg between Birmingham and Leeds - thought to be a potential recommendation in an upcoming report by Sir John Armitt, who has been reviewing the plans for the National Infrastructure Commission.

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Plans for HS2 involve Phase 1 running from London to Birmingham, Phase 2a from Birmingham to Crewe, and Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and from Birmingham to Leeds.

But the Government has deferred decisions on the design of the latter section until after the publication of an Integrated Rail Plan, expected later this year.

Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison told The Yorkshire Post: “The missed opportunity to have started building HS2 from the North and not up from London, is widely acknowledged.

"The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is the Northern Powerhouse spokesperson at Cabinet, accepts the argument entirely, and regrets it is still necessary and now only possible to start from Euston to Birmingham. This should send a strong signal to the National Infrastructure Commission.

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He added: “The Eastern Leg had the strongest economic rationale of any section of the line, and to build the section connecting Yorkshire and on to the North East last or not at all is economically illiterate, as the independent Northern Powerhouse Review into HS2 demonstrated conclusively last year.”

Judith Blake, Leeds City Council leader, said any attempt to scale back the eastern leg would leave the Government’s levelling-up ambitions “in tatters”.

It comes after campaigners at Invest East Coast Rail called on the Government to invest in the East Coast Main Line, claiming that economies served by the line could see more than £11 billion of benefits as part of a coherent package of rail schemes, including the full delivery of HS2.

A National Infrastructure Commission spokesperson said that it is “reviewing various rail schemes to illustrate different strategic options for government that are deliverable, affordable, and that accelerate benefits to the Midlands and the North.

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“We will submit and publish our report in due course to inform the government’s Integrated Rail Plan.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “As we build back better from Covid, we’re committed to bringing the benefits of high speed rail to the East Midlands, Yorkshire and beyond.

"Our Integrated Rail Plan will outline how projects, including HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, can work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers need and deserve, as quickly as possible.”

Yorkshire businesses, meanwhille, are being invited to tender for £12bn worth of HS2 contracts.

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HS2 Ltd, the company delivering the high-speed railway, is today kicking off a four-day virtual event to showcase many of the contract opportunities, and firms across the UK can find out

how to prepare and start bidding.

So far 114 companies in Yorkshire and the Humber have delivered work on HS2, and more than 150 have registered to attend this week’s online ‘Meet the Contractor’ events.

Delegates will hear about the estimated 400,000 supply chain opportunities that will emerge over the next 18 months, as work on the tunnels, viaducts and station foundations along the Phase 1 route gathers pace.