'Scrap it and spend the money in the North': Leeds reacts to Channel 4 HS2 Dispatches

Dispatches claimed that HS2 may never even reach Leeds.
Dispatches claimed that HS2 may never even reach Leeds.
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Furious viewers have called for HS2 to be scrapped and the money invested in the north - following a documentary on the multi-billion pound rail project.

The Disptaches documentary, titled HS2 - The Great Train Robbery, aired at 8pm last night.

It made the explosive claim that the high speed rail link may never even reach Leeds.

As it stands, phase one of the scheme will open between London and Birmingham in 2026, before extending to Manchester and Leeds in 2033.

The Government initially said it would cost £32.7 billion, but the estimated cost has ballooned to £55.7 billion and some experts believe it could increase to up to £100 billion.

Journalist Liam Halligan spoke to angry commuters - and asked whether the project should be cancelled and the cash spent improving rail links across the North of England through an east-west high speed rail link - known as Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Twitter user Richard Reid said: "No surprises in tonight’s #Dispatches. #HS2 should be scrapped & instead the money invested in the failing rail services running in the North."

He added: "Northern trains with two carriages at peak time is their modus operandi. Northern should be stripped of their franchise. #HS2 #Dispatches."

Campaigning Twitter account hs2SOWHAT said: "If #HS2 stays within budget, investing in rail transport across the North is *still* a better investment."

READ MORE: 10 pubs, buildings and business premises set to be bulldozed for HS2 in Leeds.

Commuters also contributed footage to the programme. One frustrated Leeds passenger said: “I’ve missed my train, I’ve missed my next train and I’m going to be late.”

The programme also head from Professor Stephen Glaister, formerly a top advisor to the Government on transport matters.

Criticising the government’s approach, he said: "There was no big picture analysis. We just don’t know whether there would have been a better way of spending the money. You might ask the question what else could you do?

"You could give larger sums of money to Manchester to Birmingham, to Newcastle and let them do as they saw best for their local communities.”

Dispatches commissioned an independent consultants to compare the economic benefits of NPR versus HS2 and found investing in the north would provide a £2.70 return for every £1 - higher than the £2.40 the government say HS2 would bring.

Twitter user Ben said: "#Dispatches highlighting yet again the north matters to literally no government ever. As long. As London gets all it needs, who cares eh @PhilipHammondUK?"

But James Reed, Head of External Affairs for West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: "Tonight’s Dispatches got its rail lines crossed. The key to better rail in the North is not a choice between HS2 or NPR or TransPennine upgrade or investment in current network. We need all of it and not as an act of charity to the North but as an investment in the UK economy."

Sean was more sceptical. He said: "Well done Dispatches. Upgrade the existing Network. Manchester and Leeds, yeah right."

READ MORE: Opportunity from HS2 is too big to miss
In the programme, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham agreed that it should not be a choice between NPR and HS2.

He said: “All Government’s have failed people in the north of England when it comes to Transport.

The north-south divide has been created by decades, possibly centuries of neglect of the north by Westminster and it won’t be solved by one railway line.

Asked which scheme he would choose if he could only pick one, he said: “We need both, but if that’s what it came down to I would choose rail investment west to east across the north of England.”

Towards the end of the 30 minute documentary, the current Chief Executive of HS2 hit back at the critics. He dismissed claims that HS2 was a “white elephant” and said both it and NPR had to happen.

“The budget for this scheme is £56 million.

“When HS2 and the work of Northern Powerhouse Rail brings together an integrated rail network to connect those northern cities, it will transform the northern economy, it will transform as a result the UK economy, it will rebalance that prosperity and wealth gap that we know we have between north and south.”