Metro chief doubtful over Minister’s attitude to Hub

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The head of Leeds Metro has expressed concern over non-committal comments from Rail Minister Theresa Villiers on the proposed £530m Northern Hub project.

James Lewis said Ms Villiers indicated in a speech she made to rail bosses in Leeds last week that plans were “unlikely to be implemented as a whole because of its high cost” .

Coun Lewis said: “With the Government claiming it wants to close the North-South divide you would think Ministers would find a way of supporting a rail scheme that will underpin growth right across the North, helping to create thousands of jobs by bringing key economic centres closer together.”

He said the scheme would deliver over £4bn of benefits for a capital cost of £530m.

He said that “money for schemes in the North must be tight” because of the £500m upgrade of King’s Cross station, a £500m refurbishment of Victoria station and the £16bn Crossrail project in London.

“What’s needed is a Crossrail One for the North which the Northern Hub plan would deliver in spades,” Coun Lewis said. “And at £4 of benefit for every £1 spent, how can the country not afford it?”

The Northern Hub, one of several projects across the country currently under consideration, would add an extra 700 train services a day across the North, increasing capacity by 44m over the next six years.

It was one of a raft of proposals put forward in Network Rail’s budget for 2014-2019, which are awaiting Government approval.

Ms Villiers told the Yorkshire Post last week that the Northern Hub will be “considered very closely” by the G overnment. A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “As the Minister has already made clear, we fully recognise the benefits that the Northern Hub programme could offer and we are looking very seriously at the whole proposal.

“However, the affordability of the scheme will also clearly need careful consideration. It will be necessary to weigh up the different components of the hub individually.”