It follows the publication of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, which scrapped both the eastern leg (Birmingham-to-Leeds) of HS2, as well as downgrading plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would have seen a new line run from Liverpool to Hull, with stops at Leeds and Bradford.
Leeds was instead pledged £200m to go towards a new mass transit network, along with extra cash to study how best to get high speed trains to Leeds.
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The decision was met with a chorus of condemnation from northern council leaders and MPs, including the leader of Leeds City Council, with claims the north was once again being short-changed when it came to transport infrastructure spending.
But the leader of the Leeds Liberal Democrats group welcomed the decision, as many of the people he represents live in an area that would have been affected by the new track.
He said: “Whatever the reasoning behind the decision by the Government to cancel the Eastern leg of HS2, it is welcomed by the overwhelming majority of people that I know as a local resident in Oulton and Woodlesford.
“However, the relief is qualified by the small print in the announcement today, that our area is still subject to HS2’s ‘safeguarding’ restrictions, and that the government has given the West Yorkshire Mayor £100m to work up a scheme to show how HS2 trains can come to Leeds from Sheffield in the future.
“We will want a cast iron guarantee very early on that it won’t seek to resurrect a scheme that brings it through our patch, as we’ve lived with HS2 blight for long enough.”
Coun Golton represents Rothwell on Leeds City Council, which is one of the areas the track would have run through, according to earlier Government plans.
His comments clash with those of Leeds City Council leader James Lewis, who last week bemoaned the government’s integrated rail plan for scrapping its planned eastern leg of HS2, which would have run from Birmingham to Leeds, along with the downgrading of the east-to-west Northern Powerhouse Rail plans.
Speaking following the IRP’s publication, Coun Lewis said: “After more than 10 years of effort, investment and planning based on the government’s clear proposal to bring HS2 to Leeds, we have been left extremely disappointed and frustrated by today’s announcement which only offers more studies, reviews and uncertainty for high-speed connections to our city – but, sadly, we are not surprised.
“This is not the first time our city has been promised major infrastructure investment, only for it to be curtailed or cancelled.”
But Coun Golton claimed the watered down rail plans were just as much the fault of local authorities as central government.
He said: “The writing was on the wall for HS2 for years, and this ‘make do and mend’ package for transport in our region offered now is as much the fault of local Labour council leaders as it is Tory ministers.
“It was always the rail connectivity east-west that was going to have the biggest effect on northern economic growth, and northern leaders made the monumental error of accepting the government argument that Northern Powerhouse Rail could only happen as a further phase of the HS2 project.
“As a consequence, Transport for the North has spent the past six years obsessing about HS2 and took their eye off the ball by not prioritising the case for Northern Powerhouse Rail as HS2 buckled under the ballooning cost – a direct result of years of poor ministerial oversight.”
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