HAVE YOUR SAY: HS2 link to Leeds scrapped as more money is pledged to improve existing rail services in the North
HS2 LINK TO LEEDS: The Government has managed to disappoint “virtually everybody” with its rail announcements, a Northern Powerhouse chief has said.
Vice-chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership Lord O’Neill said that the Government had promised “60 or 70 times” to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) in full, and warned that if it wanted to stay in power it had to follow through on its promises.
The former minister’s comments come after the Government announced the eastern leg of HS2 between the Midlands and Leeds would be cut, while a promised Northern Powerhouse Rail link between Leeds and Manchester would run partly on existing tracks.
On Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News, Lord O’Neill said: “In isolation, if it would have just appeared from nowhere, it might not have been so bad, but given everything that’s followed since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, as we can see with the reaction across the board, is pretty disappointing.”
Lord O’Neill was asked whether the promised halving of some journey times was not a win, and said: “I’m yet to find a single technical expert that believes it’s deliverable.”
He said the Government had also “allowed a lot of people to think” Bradford would be included in NPR.
Lord O’Neill also said: “The downside of very strong expectations creation is that it does create belief and also a spirit and a desire and a passion.
“And so that’s partly what created the victory for them in the election, but if they want to stay in power they’ve obviously got to show some evidence of following through.”
He said: “I would add, in addition, I smell that there has been quite a bit of the hand of the Treasury playing around to try and save a few billion here and there in the background.”
And he added: “The Labour opposition is now seemingly saying even more powerfully than I recall them saying in the past that they will deliver in full, including Bradford – the political pressures might come back and get them (the Government) to rethink again.”
On Thursday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan.
Within the new plans, te extension of HS2 from the East Midlands to Leeds has been scrapped. HS2 trains will instead run on existing lines.
Meanwhile, Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester will be a combination of new track and enhancements to existing infrastructure.
The Government defended the plans, saying they would provide faster journeys and more train capacity across the North, but in a shorter timeframe than the HS2 plans.
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