Scrapping Eastern leg of HS2 would constitute 'government betrayal' of Leeds and West Yorkshire

Government scrapping of the Leeds link of the HS2 rail network would constitute a 'government betrayal'.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 4:45 am
Updated Friday, 22nd October 2021, 11:30 am

These were the strong words of Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon as rumours continue to circulate surrounding plans to scrap the Eastern leg of the long promised HS2 rail upgrade.

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Official word remains that plans remain very much alive but when providing a 3,200 word HS2 progress update to Parliament, Rail Minister Andrew Stephenson failed to mention the Yorkshire section of the route.

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Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon joined West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin at Leeds Railway Station to vocalise their continued support for the HS2 plan. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Speaking on the omission Mr McMahon said: “Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he had a forgetful day. But if when the Budget comes out, that's not hard-lined into it then it goes from being slightly forgetful to an absolute betrayal.”

Mr McMahon was speaking as part of a planned visit to Leeds railway station on Thursday alongside West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin who expressed her continued frustration at the situation.

Ms Brabin said: “I gatecrashed the Conservative party conference to ask about these rumours (that the Eastern leg would be cancelled) and they all said 'It isn't dead'.

“We are getting mixed messages which is so frustrating. It's time now for the government to walk the walk and be clear with leaders across the North. We can't be served cold porridge, we've got to have something that is fit for the future.”

Number 10 continue to insist that the Eastern leg of the HS2 plan 'isn't dead' despite increased rumours to the contrary. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Originally set up in 2009 the long discussed Eastern leg of the HS2 promises to revolutionise rail travel in and out of Leeds, including the opening of a brand new station in Leeds and the promise of cutting travel times between Leeds and Birmingham from two hours to just 45 minutes.

Plans have been on hold awaiting the outcome of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) to be published with fears the Leeds leg could be scrapped altogether amidst rising costs.

But with the COP26 climate summit just round the corner and a national push to get commuters out of their cars and onto public transport, Ms Brabin feels it is a vital time for the Government in building a rail network fit for the future.

“We are already functioning with that Victorian network, this is about getting not just a 21st century transport system but one for the future,” she said “This is such a pivotal time for Boris Johnson as host of COP26, to say that we need to get people out of their cars and the only way to do that is to have that 21st century transport system.”

For Mr McMahon any failure at this stage to finance plans to cut carbon emissions would make the whole country look bad ahead of the summit: “If the Government don't realise that transport infrastructure investment is a critical part of our de-carbonisation agenda than frankly COP26 is going to be an embarrassment for the whole nation.

“We are far too dependent on HGV movement to get freight around the country when we need to take that off the roads and onto rail.”

COP26 is to be held in Glasgow between October 31 and November 12, whilst a decision relating to the much anticipated Eastern leg of the HS2 is expected in the coming weeks.

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