PMQs: Boris Johnson clashes with Keir Starmer on HS2
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On Thursday, the Government will announce a £96billion investment into railway services in the midlands and northern England. However, reports suggest the improvement fund comes while the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds will be scrapped. This has sparked fury across the north, with the Prime Minister accused of “betrayal”.
In an article published in the Yorkshire Post, Mr Johnson appears to confirm that the eastern line of HS2 has been scrapped in favour of short-term investment.
The Prime Minister argued high speed railways like HS2 are “grindingly slow to build”, but noted there will be a “new study” on how to reach Leeds.
He 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.
“But high-speed rail is grindingly slow to build. Under the original blueprint, first drawn up more than a decade ago, Yorkshire would have not have seen the benefits of our investment until at least the 2040s.
“Levelling up can’t wait that long.”
Despite the £96bn fund, earmarked for local service upgrades to improve journey times, voters have skewered the plans to axe HS2 reaching Leeds.
Andrew Louie Lewis, from Leeds, said on Twitter: “We were never going to get HS2 into Leeds it was always a lie.
“The northern powerhouse rail connection will never materialise. The trains in the north are overpriced, infrequent and slow.
“The north needs rail investment but all we get is lip service from the Government.”
Steve Chevalier also said on Twitter: “Did voters really believe Tories on levelling up? We all know in the South that Tories look down on people up North.
“When will people North of Watford get the message. HS2 Leeds scrapped, and instead the current line to be upgraded, that means no extra capacity and no faster lines. But fares are certain to go up. Cheaper to drive.”
James May added: “With the Conservatives attacking each other, complaining that they can’t abuse their positions to make money and now scrapping HS2 to Leeds and scrapping the Northern Powerhouse railway, they’re rebuilding the Red Wall all on their own!”
Mike Cherry, from The Federation of Small Businesses’ told the Financial Times on Thursday it remains to be seen whether the new improvements to local services make up for the change to the high speed plans.
He added: “Confirmation that a significant section of HS2 is not going ahead will come as a big disappointment to small firms right across the country which were banking on its delivery.
“Targeted, local investment is a great thing — the detail unveiled tomorrow will reveal whether we have enough here to make up for the HS2 shortfall.
“There will be those who worry that the levelling-up agenda is already going off track.”
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, told the BBC’s Today programme of a “real risk of disappointment across the North” if the Leeds leg of HS2 is scrapped.
He added: “The budget that’s been promised, £96bn, is about £30bn less than the previous plans and what we were being offered.
“That means real cuts on the eastern leg, real cuts to the new line across the Pennines through Bradford.”
Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, also accused the Government of using “smoke and mirrors” and added: “HS2 was meant to be a world-beater, and put Britain, the country which gave the railway to the world, back on the industrial and economic map.
“Instead, the Tories are letting us down. This Government is a Government of broken promises.
“It has announced Northern Powerhouse Rail an incredible 60 times – and I know because we’ve counted – and now it puts the project in the bin.”
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