Government confirms HS2 line to Leeds will be axed  but promises to transform rail services in the north

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told the Commons the HS2 between the East Midlands and Leeds will now be scrapped, but said a new integrated rail plan would deliver improvements 10 years earlier.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 12:43 pm
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The line from Birmingham through the East Midlands, to Sheffield and onto Leeds is to be axed and replaced with localised improvements.

Parts of Doncaster, including a number of homes on the Shimmer estate in Mexborough, have already been secured by HS2 for demolition to make way for the line.

Outlining the government’s rail plan Grant Shapps said the integrated rail plan is an “ambitious and unparalleled programme” to overhaul inter-city links across the north and Midlands, and “speed up the benefits for local areas and serves destinations people most want to reach”.

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The Transport Secretary told the Commons: “This new blueprint delivers three high-speed lines. First, that’s Crewe to Manchester.

“Second, Birmingham to the East Midlands with HS2 trains continuing to central Nottingham and central Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield on an upgraded mainline. And third, a brand new high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester and to the western border of Yorkshire – slashing journey times across the north.”

Laughter could be heard from Labour MPs at the reference to the “western border” of Yorkshire.

Grant Shapps told MPs: “I’ve heard some people say that we’re just going about electrifying the TransPennine route – this is wrong.

“What we’re actually doing is investing £23 billion to deliver Northern Powerhouse rail and the TransPennine route upgrade, unlocking east-west travel across the north of England.

“So, in total, this package is 110 miles of new high-speed line, all of it in the midlands and the north.

“It’s 180 miles of newly-electrified line, all of it in the midlands and the north.”

He added: “We’ll upgrade the east coast mainline with a package of investment on track improvements and digital signalling, bringing down journey times between London, Leeds, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh – bringing benefits to the North East much, much sooner than under the previous plans.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government will “study” how best to take HS2 trains into Leeds and committed to starting work on a West Yorkshire mass transit system.

He said: “We’ll study how best to take HS2 trains into Leeds as well. We’ll start work on the new West Yorkshire mass transit system, righting the wrong of this major city, probably the largest in Europe which doesn’t have a mass transit system.

“We commit today to supporting West Yorkshire Combined Authority over the long-term to ensure that this time it actually gets done.”

Labour MP Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) said: “There’s been a great deal of commitment in Sheffield to HS2 across the political parties and in the business community, so today there will be a lot of anger, people will feel that Sheffield has been once again snubbed and left behind.

“I think as a consolation we’re going to get the electrification of the Midland Main Line, is that the third time it’s been promised? It’s already been scrapped twice, so are we going to be third time lucky? What’s the guarantee?”

Grant Shapps said: “The good news for him and his constituents is these are exactly the same journey times as were promised to him through HS2 now to Sheffield through today’s plan.

“But the good news is, rather than having to wait until 2043… particularly for the Midland Main Line upgrades, we’ll be starting that work this Christmas.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary described the integrated rail plan announcement as a “great train robbery”.

Jim McMahon added that the Government had “betrayed” the North.

The Oldham West and Royton MP said Boris Johnson had broken a promise on HS2 made “60 times” in the past few years, adding: “Boris Johnson was elected to level the playing fields, to make things better for households across the country.

“We were promised a Northern Powerhouse, we were promised a Midlands Engine, to be levelled up. But what we have been given today is a great train robbery.”

Labour’s frontbench also contested the £96 billion headline figure promised for northern rail projects in the Government’s integrated rail plan.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “£96 billion, £40 billion of which has already been committed from London to Crewe, but is being labelled as investment across the North of England, and of the £56 billion that remains let us compare that to what the North of England would have got over the last decade had it had the same investment as London and the South-east: We are still £10 billion short.”

He added: “We are not going to accept crumbs off the table.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps replied: “£96 billion expenditure. The single biggest ever investment.

“We haven’t made any secret of the fact that some of that money is already the Birmingham to Crewe line, the Crewe to Manchester line, last time I checked that benefits the Midlands and the North, doesn’t it?”

The Transport Secretary said the integrated rail plan “delivers not just for our largest cities but also for smaller places and towns”, and that work will start by Christmas.

He said “today’s plan is about those places which connect and interact with HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail”.

He said: “After decades of decline, with constrained capacity, and poor reliability, finally this plan will give passengers and the north and the Midlands the service they need and they deserve. It’s not just about infrastructure, we’re going to make train travel much easier as well.