Ex-treasury minister slams Boris Johnson’s Northern rail plans – ‘Please explain!’

Angela Rayner defends her criticism of Boris Johnson

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The original plan for HS2 was to connect London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with the final phase running HS2 to Manchester and Leeds. However, the Leeds section has been scrapped under the new plans.

But now the Prime Minister, ​​57, dismissed suggestions he had broken his promises on Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) “because we are doubling capacity between Manchester and Leeds”, while also cutting the journey time from 55 to 33 minutes.

Lord Jim O’Neill, 64, former treasury minister who served in ex-chancellor George Osborne’s Treasury, and Vice-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said this morning: “Given the amount of uproar it will cause in Red Wall seats and Tory northern MPs, especially in the current time, I’m not quite sure why they’ve done it.”

The crossbench peer also questioned Mr Johnson’s claim the changes will still boost both journey speeds and capacity, he told i: “Can someone in Government please explain how you can go from Manchester to Leeds in 33 minutes, and double the capacity?

“If Huddersfield to Leeds is on the existing line, it’s hard to understand how.

“The only way to square the circle is sophisticated use of digitalisation, which they are claiming, but will truly be necessary.”

Phase 1 connecting London and Birmingham is due to be completed between 2028 to 2031.

Then Phase 2 running up to Crewe and Manchester will be finished between 2029 and 2033.

The Prime Minister’s plans to deliver the new line between Leeds and Manchester was a key pledge in 2019.

The scrapped link to Leeds was seen to cut the journey between London and Leeds by 50 minutes.

According to the Yorkshire Post, Mr Johnson said: “HS2 will come to Sheffield, meaning a trip to or from London will take just one hour 27 minutes – precisely the same as under the old HS2 plans.

“We’ll look at how to get HS2 to Leeds too, with a new study on the best way to make it happen.”

However, the Prime Minister did not mention how he would include Bradford directly on an entirely new NPR route between Leeds and Manchester. Northern leaders have been calling for this.

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The Prime Minister has said the route upgrades between Leeds and Bradford will occur “by the early 2030s” to halve journey times, whilst committing to NPR reaching York.

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