The Government has been urged to ensure that long-awaited plans for high-speed rail links become a reality as Ministers have set out the huge economic benefits that the multi-billion pound improvements to the nation’s beleaguered network will bring.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will today announce the decision to award £6.6bn worth of construction contracts for the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham.
He is also set to confirm the final route of the Manchester and Leeds arms of the high-speed railway.
The Government has claimed HS2 “could double the number of rush hour seats” available on busy services in the North.
The announcement comes as leaders in Yorkshire have warned it is vital the project “is completed in full”, as question marks remain that the proposed eastern leg of the project, from Birmingham to Leeds, Sheffield and York, could fail to materialise if future governments decide to press ahead with the western side only.
Stuart Andrew, the MP for Pudsey Horsforth and Aireborough, said the region needs to must keep fighting to ensure HS2 becomes a reality for Yorkshire.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “Every meeting and discussion I have had with Ministers, they have reassured me that the eastern leg is just as vital as the rest.
“We don’t know what will happen in the future, but in the Yorkshire region we have got to speak with one voice - we can’t take anything for granted. We have got to keep fighting for it and we can’t rest on our laurels.”
The latest announcements come after business leaders met in Leeds this month and were told Yorkshire must make its voice heard, in order to guarantee the rail line is built in the region.
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, who spoke during the meeting, said today: “The HS2 project must be completed in full and as soon as possible, and we will continue to call for full confirmation of the HS2 Eastern leg and for work to start on it early in order for the benefits to be felt by all areas in line with that commitment.”
MPs have already passed the law paving the way for phase one of the HS2 project from London to Birmingham and Mr Grayling will soon publish a bill to deliver the next phase from the Midlands to Crewe.
It is estimated that construction of the full route to the north west and Yorkshire will create up to 25,000 jobs.
Rachel Gaskell, York Central MP and Shadow Rail Minister, said: “We really want to make sure that the benefits of HS2 are brought to the North, not just London.
“Certainly there are some issues around the route, there have been discussions and there will continue to be discussions on that.
“We will be doing what we can to make sure HS2 stays on track.”
Mr Grayling said today’s announcements were “a hugely important step in the construction of Britain’s new railway”.