Leeds MP warns Government could be ‘going cold’ on HS2

A Leeds MP has warned that he believes the Government is “going cold” on the Leeds leg of the HS2 project.

Sunday, 21st February 2021, 6:00 am

Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central), has said the city is “way behind” London in terms of its transport infrastructure, and needs to be on the north-south high speed rail link in order to support jobs.

It comes just weeks before the Government is expected to publish its integrated rail plan, which could be key to deciding whether the section of HS2 linking Birmingham with Leeds will be built.

Mr Benn said: “There is increasing concern about reports and whispers that the Government is going cold on the Eastern leg of HS2. Failing to deliver HS2, and NPR, in full including the Eastern leg, would represent a huge broken promise by the Prime Minister. And it would destroy any claim to be levelling up in Leeds and Yorkshire.

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Hilary Benn has warned the Government may be 'going cold' on the Leeds leg of HS2.

“Much of the recent economic success in Leeds has been based on the promise of HS2 coming to our city. Pulling the plug now would see confidence here take a big hit.

“The positive case for HS2 coming to Leeds remains as strong as ever. Communities and businesses along this route deserve the transformational connectivity and economic benefits that building high speed rail here would bring. People could move around more easily and be less dependent on cars thanks to more reliable, quicker rail services.

“They could find better-paid, more highly skilled work. More businesses would move here, looking to the pool of great talent we have in our city, in turn, attracting further investment.

“For far too long the North has had a raw deal when it comes to transport investment. As a result, we’re way behind London – whose success is largely built on an efficient, highly-sophisticated transport network. It’s now time for the Government to deliver on the promises they have made to communities in Leeds and the North.”

The Government had previously committed to delivering HS2 Phase 2b (which links London with Leeds and Manchester) and the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme (linking Liverpool to Hull via Leeds), although details and projected completion dates are sketchy and uncertain.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to ensuring that Yorkshire reaps the benefits of high-speed services.

“The Integrated Rail Plan will consider how best to deliver HS2 Phase 2b and other major rail projects in the North and Midlands, so that the benefits of these investments are delivered to passengers and communities more quickly.”

The Government is understood to be considering the National Infrastructure Commission’s Rail Needs Assessment in full, ahead of a decision on its Integrated Rail Plan expected in the coming weeks.