Northern Powerhouse could become ‘pipedream’ if HS2 doesn’t come to Leeds, claims pressure group

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The head of a North of England pressure group has claimed the Government’s fated Northern Powerhouse vision could become a “pipedream” if HS2 does not reach Leeds in the coming years, as calls to make the scheme a reality intensify today.

Regional MPs and council leaders are calling on the Prime Minister to make a strong commitment for plans for the “eastern” leg of David Cameron’s flagship high-speed rail scheme, which would run from Birmingham to Leeds.

Henri Murison, the director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, has now added his voice to the calls, claiming northern businesses would not look kindly on the Government if the scheme were shelved.

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Mr Murison said: “Unless HS2 is delivered in full to both Manchester and Leeds, and integrated with Northern Powerhouse Rail, the North will never see the economic transformation it needs and deserves and the Northern Powerhouse will remain a pipe dream.

Northern leaders are putting pressure on the Government to get HS2 done. (Pic: Getty)Northern leaders are putting pressure on the Government to get HS2 done. (Pic: Getty)
Northern leaders are putting pressure on the Government to get HS2 done. (Pic: Getty)

“If we are truly to level up the UK, and create a country where young people have the same prospects wherever they come from, HS2 will have a major role to play. The Prime Minister guaranteed in February that HS2 would be delivered in full; Northern businesses and communities will not look kindly on any wavering on that commitment.”

His comments come as a group of MPs, civic and business leaders from across Yorkshire have now written to Boris Johnson, calling for the full delivery of HS2’s Eastern Leg.

The cross-party group cited a new report which demonstrates stark social and economic inequalities between the Eastern and Western regions of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

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Campaign group HS2 East says communities surrounding the eastern leg of HS2 phase 2b suffer from lower productivity, poorer social mobility and receive lower levels of transport investment than communities surrounding its western leg, set to run from Birmingham to Manchester.

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn said: “We know that the full economic potential of the North is not being tapped and that children who grow up poor in the eastern regions of the Midlands and the North are more likely to stay poor and less likely to achieve social mobility.

“We need to do something about this, and investment in HS2’s eastern leg will help to create jobs, unlock regeneration and increase productivity that our communities need if these divisions are to be reduced.”

Leader of Leeds City Council and co-chair of the HS2 East group Judith Blake said: “The eastern leg of HS2 and improved transport connectivity has never been more crucial as we continue our economic recovery from the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

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“It is essential that the government commits to delivering the eastern leg of HS2 in full and at the same time as the western leg, accelerating our regions’ recovery and regeneration so that communities across the North and Midlands can benefit much earlier from the truly transformational opportunities that this will bring.”

The planned eastern leg of HS2, also known as Phase 2b, runs from Birmingham through to Leeds, via Sheffield and Nottingham.

Although the Government had previously committed to delivering HS2 Phase 2b and the east-west Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme, HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson gave a speech in February speaking of the need to bring forward legislation to bring high-speed rail into Manchester, but made no mention of Leeds.