Leeds HS2 leg ‘set to be scrapped’, Whitehall leak suggests

A government source has reportedly claimed it will “never be built in our lifetime” – but the Department for Transport denies any final decisions have yet been made

Leeds’ HS2 extension looks ‘set to be scrapped according to leaks coming out of Whitehall, reports suggest this morning.

A government source has reportedly claimed the Eastern leg will “never be built in our lifetime” in a move that is intended to shave £40billion off the costs of what one Tory MP has dubbed the “hugely expensive white elephant” railway project.

Whilst the Department of Transport insists that the decision to axe the Eastern leg has not yet been made, a source told the Sunday Mirror yesterday:

‘They might make some announcement about doing the work in the future but everyone involved knows the truth.

‘They have run out of cash and there’s no way we’re going to see this built in our lifetimes.’ 

The leaks come in spite of the fact that the city has already started work on a new £500million station in preparation for the new line.

Officially, the Department for Transport is maintaining that a much-delayed integrated rail plan is due imminently and will ‘soon’ outline plans to move forward with all major railway infrastructure plans.

Northern leaders have hit back at the comments today, warning that plans to ‘level up’ the north will be much harder to achieve without the long-promised new rail links.

Tracy Brabin, the mayor of West Yorkshire, said: ‘The government cannot talk about levelling up and a commitment to the north without addressing the decades of underinvestment across our transport networks.

‘The eastern leg of HS2 is essential to providing the rail services that work for our communities, as part of a joined-up transport system that connects people to better jobs, better education, and more opportunities.’   

Currently, so far the only part of the project that has been built only serves to connect London with Birmingham – cutting journey times from one hour 21 minutes to 52 minutes, according to a statement given by The Department for Transport last year.

For the second leg, it was estimated that journeys from Birmingham to Leeds would be down to 49 minutes from two hours and Manchester to London journeys would take one hour and seven minutes, cutting down travel time by an hour.

Leader of Leeds city council James Lewis said: ‘I will be hugely disappointed if we are back to the drawing board. 

‘The constant pipeline of projects in London moving forward suggests that levelling up isn’t in operation.’  

However, Conservative MP for Rother Valley Alexander Stafford took a different view:

“What we need is the money invested in transport infrastructure that might actually bring a tangible benefit to seats like mine. 

‘We need a better bus service and better links to Manchester across the Pennines rather than a hugely expensive white elephant that is sucking resources out of areas like mine and will only benefit a tiny number of people living in central Leeds”

Elsewhere Henri Murison, the director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said failing to bring HS2’s western and eastern legs would see the project “undermined in achieving its full economic benefits”.

Since its initial approval in 2012, the project’s total cost has reportedly risen from £32.7 billion to £107.7 billion. Northern leaders are now urging the DfT to release its much-delayed Integrated Rail Plan.

Feature image – Rept0n1x.

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