Senior transport figures have issued a stark warning on the future of transport in Leeds and across Yorkshire following reports that HS2 could be cut from the north in a bid to save money.
Today the Financial Times reported that the high-speed rail network, planned to connect London to Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds with a superfast train line, could be slashed in scope.
It would mean the trains would no longer serve north of the Midlands, while the trains themselves would be reduced in speed by 40mph in an effort to bring the project's spiraling costs under control.
The news is believed to have resulted from a panel conducting the 'Oakervee Review' into HS2 which is apparently looking to save £10billion from the costs.
Leeds MP Hillary Benn said that Leeds 'would not accept' HS2 being cut from the city.
Commenting on today’s Financial Times report on the Oakervee Review, Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport lead, said: “There will be grave long term consequences for the economy of the North and East of the UK if the eastern leg of HS2 isn’t delivered in full. It would sacrifice the £600m of annual GDP growth forecast from better connections between Leeds and Birmingham alone while also putting at risk the expected 50,000 additional jobs HS2 would create in the Leeds City Region.
“The lack of additional capacity provided by HS2 would put further pressure on an existing network which is already struggling to cope with demand with 8% of East Coast Main Line intercity services already cancelled or significantly late and Leeds Station the third busiest outside of London and the fourth worst in the country for overcrowding at peak times.
“With trains between Leeds and Sheffield currently travelling at an average speed of 36mph, failure to deliver HS2 in full to Leeds while going ahead with a western leg providing services travelling at 250mph would condemn the North and East of the UK to second-class status.”
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said:“Integration with HS2 at both Leeds and Manchester is central to achieving the full benefits of our plan for Bradford to be a city centre stop on Northern Powerhouse Rail. Connecting Bradford to an integrated high speed rail network would generate a £15bn boost to the economy of the North and the UK as a whole and it is inconceivable we would miss this tremendous opportunity.
“Our ambitions for a city centre station are part of a clear collective plan for integrated transport across the North of England which cannot be delivered if crucial elements are sacrificed on the basis of short-term considerations.
“We are united with our partners in the Connecting Britain campaign in calling for the delivery of HS2 phase 2b in full, integrated with Northern Powerhouse Rail, to ensure the full benefits of this investment are delivered for the UK economy.”