City chiefs hit out at government as Integrated Rail Plan expected to cancel Leeds leg of HS2
Leeds city chiefs have expressed their disappointment and anger as the Government prepare to officially cancel the Eastern leg of the HS2.
The HS2 which promised to revolutionise rail travel in Leeds has been the subject of much discussion in recent months but the Government's Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), to be published this week, is expected to cancel the leg once and for all.
Originally set up in 2009 the Eastern leg included promises of a brand new station being built in Leeds and travel times between Leeds and Birmingham cutting from two hours to just 45 minutes.
Government plans are expected to see the Leeds part downgraded with focus instead being placed on improving previously existing links.
In a statement provided to the YEP Coun James Lewis, leader of the Leeds City Council, said: “As we await the government’s Integrated Rail Plan, which are we informed will be published shortly, we believe that anything less than a commitment to the eastern leg of HS2 as part of an integrated network with Northern Powerhouse Rail in full would undermine any pledge to ‘level up’ our regions – at a time when we need it most.
“While it’s still speculation swirling, it’s particularly concerning to see that Northern Powerhouse Rail may be abandoned before it’s even began. Ten years ago we were promised Trans-Pennine electrification which hasn’t happened. Boris Johnson said on becoming Prime Minister that NPR would do to the north what crossrail is going to do for London. Crossrail is almost built so cutting NPR now would just reinforce the old North South divide.”
Coun Neil Buckley, a local Conservative, described the news as disappointing: "We need to be careful and wait to see what they do say but it looks as though the Eastern leg is definitely off which is disappointing." he said "It's especially disappointing that it appears as though Manchester is going to get the full works, as per the original plan, and we aren't going to get ours."
For Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, transport and delivering the HS2 was central to her office agenda upon election and Coun Buckley has questioned why it hasn't come to pass.
"I have to say that other Mayors like Andy Burnham have managed to pull off huge deals for their areas and our Mayor, Tracy Brabin, appears not to have been able to do this." he said "I think she has failed because what is the point of having a Mayor if the Mayor can't pull off things like this."
In an open letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson today Mayor Brabin said: “The media reports this weekend suggesting that the Government will deliver a watered-down version of the essential rail links we need to level up the North are extremely worrying.
“If we are to give the people of the North the fair chance they deserve for prosperity, equality of opportunity and for the vital decarbonisation which will ensure we meet critical climate targets then the Government must give us the HS2 Eastern Leg in full and deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail, with the crucial new stop in central Bradford. This is alongside the upgrade and modernisation of the existing trans-Pennine route."
Mayor Brabin continued adding: "Levelling up is in the interests of the nation as a whole, not just the North and it cannot be achieved without this rail plan.”
A full announcement on the HS2 is expected later this week.
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