The betrayal over HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail means Yorkshire cannot trust this Government ever again - Mark Casci

As the weather grows colder and the nights longer, it would seem that some figurative and deeply dangerous storm clouds await us on the horizon.

Rumours have been circulating for some weeks now that rail upgrade plans for the North of England are to be watered down.

And despite literally years of promises – some more than a decade ago – Yorkshire is set to be screwed over on an epic scale.

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These rumours now look set to become reality with the publication of the long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan this week.

Cartoon by Graeme Bandeira.

The Government is apparently to scrap Northern Powerhouse Rail in favour of track upgrades rather than building a new line.

This come on top of an expected confirmation that HS2 will run only to Manchester, with Sheffield and Leeds cut off.

Quite what Yorkshire and the North has done to deserve this kick in the teeth remains unclear.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

However, instead of the high speed route we were promised, the offer now appears to be investment into existing Transpennine route upgrade proposals.

This in particular is bad for Bradford, which stood to gain enormous benefits from a station linking it to Manchester and Leeds. For Yorkshire as a whole, this spells disaster.

It will see us having to persist with our increasingly unreliable, abysmally slow and embarrassingly poor rail network, which is frankly decades out of date.

Meanwhile, across the Pennines, Manchester will be linked to the rest of the country via HS2. Levelling up increasingly looks like cutting off Yorkshire from the rest of the nation.

Hs2 will not reach Yorkshire

What is particularly galling is that we in the North never asked for any of these things.

HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail were promised to us by successive Governments, including this one. These plans were never developed in the North and submitted for approval. And let us not forget the current occupant of Number 10 owes much of his thumping majority to traditionally Labour seats in our region switching to the Conservatives in 2019.

I guess now it has “got Brexit done”, Government feels it has discharged its obligation to the area, rather than enacting meaningful reforms and upgrades to a region which last saw a new railway line constructed during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Of course, a full-on spin operation is being prepared, in the same way it deployed to mask the deep and lasting damage caused by Brexit and its botched handling of the pandemic.

The Next Stop Bradford campaign has failed.

Consolation prizes in the form of a tram network for Leeds and upgrades of the route from Leeds to Sheffield are apparently being prepared. Ministers will pretend that these cheap facsimiles will deliver the capacity and speeds of the scrapped projects but cheaper and more quickly. This of course will be nonsense.

Like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, these too will not be delivered. Pretending otherwise insults our intelligence and adds insult to injury.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps will take the brickbats when he announces them this week and there will be scorn thrown at the Prime Minister.

But the real target for this opprobrium should be his next door neighbour.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, himself a Yorkshire MP, appears to have won his fight to favour spending cuts over investing in the North’s future. It is widely understood that it is Mr Sunak who has wanted to reduce spending as he battles the impact of the pandemic.

Short-term savings appears to be the priority, rather than investing in something that would return benefits lasting until the next century.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Without these projects, any notion of levelling up is immediately destroyed. The concept is now as redundant as “Get Brexit Done”, another shallow and vapid expression which delivered nothing for Britain.

We cannot improve the lot of some of the country’s poorest communities by cutting them off from the rest of the nation.

What is clear from this betrayal, however, is that Yorkshire simply cannot trust this Government, now or ever again.