In a press release on Thursday, the government said its new HS2 plan will deliver “similar or faster” journey times than originally planned
The eastern leg of HS2 rail has been scrapped and plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail have also been downgraded, transport secretary Grant Shapps has now confirmed.
The transport secretary has told MPs that a new £96bn Integrated Rail Plan for the north of England and the Midlands will instead deliver “faster” train journeys both earlier and cheaper than the original plans for HS2 would have done.
Unveiling the new plan in the House of Commons, Grant Shapps confirmed that the eastern leg of HS2 will no longer go all the way to the city of Leeds. It will instead stop in the East Midlands near to Nottingham.
Plans for HS2 were originally meant to connect London with the city centres of Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds.
This comes after nine protesters from the Insulate Britain group have been handed prison sentences at the High Court for breaching a High Court injunction to stop them protesting on the M25. Six of the protesters were jailed for four months, two for three months and one protester, Ben Taylor, was given a six month sentence.
The transport secretary told MPs that a new £96bn rail plan will instead deliver three high-speed lines, the HS2 Crewe to Manchester, Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway, Warrington to Manchester, but not the HS2 to Leeds or Northern Powerhouse Rail from Leeds to Manchester.
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon described the government’s new plan as a “great train robbery”, adding that ministers have “betrayed” the north.
He accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of breaking a promise to build the entirety of HS2 made “60 times” in the past few years, telling MPs:
“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.”
Mr McMahon said most of the £96bn rail investment Mr Shapps confirmed is not “new money” and therefore amounts to “crumbs off the table”.
“He promised the north would not be forgotten. He hasn’t just forgotten us – he’s completely sold us out!”, the shadow transport secretary added.
But Mr Shapps said the new “landmark” integrated rail plan is an “ambitious and unparalleled programme” to overhaul inter-city links across the north and the Midlands and said work will start by Christmas.
“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,” the transport secretary told the Commons.
He also insisted that the new plans will “speed up the benefits for local areas”.
This comes after the terror threat of the UK has been raised to ‘severe’ following an explosion that took place in Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday. The change means a terror attack is “highly likely” across the country moving forward.
Mr Shapps added that it is “wrong” to say the government is just “electrifying the TransPennine route”.
“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,” he told MPs.
“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.”
The transport secretary added that the government will also “study how best to take HS2 trains into Leeds”.