HS2: Abandon Leeds, Sheffield and Yorkshire at your peril, Prime Minister – The Yorkshire Post says

TODAY Leeds and Sheffield Council’s leaders make an unprecedented joint appeal to Ministers to build the eastern leg of HS2 in full – or abandon this region at their peril.

They view the threat to the area’s economy – and future – so seriously if the Government reneges on its past commitments to the North that the two cities have put decades of rivalry behind them in this public collaboration.

Never before have they spoken out like this in a message of unity that The Yorkshire Post endorses ahead of the long-overdue Integrated Rail Plan that will determine the future of HS2 and, in turn, Northern Powerhouse Rail.

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The Sheffield skyline - Ministers ignore this region at their peril if they scale back HS2, the Government is warned today.

It is co-written by Councillors James Lewis and Terry Fox, the leaders of Leeds and Sheffield City Councils, and their respective chief executives Tom Riordan and Kate Josephs who both have extensive experience of Whitehall.

And their shared warning – “making do and mending will not work” – is a strong and stark one amid mounting fears that Ministers intend to turn their backs on this region and its Victorian infrastructure. They must think again.

The Integrated Rail Plan - due later this month - will determine the future of HS2 in this region.

From this newspaper’s perspective, Boris Johnson’s London government should not under-estimate the public’s sense of betrayal if it proceeds with this ‘great train robbery’ after all its past promises to the North’s 15 million residents about transport investment.

They should not under-estimate – or dismiss – the electorate’s mounting incandescence, particularly in marginal ‘red wall’ seats, about a succession of sleaze scandals that have deeply damaged public trust.

And they should not under-estimate the charges of hypocrisy to be levelled against Mr Johnson if the Prime Minister fails to lead by example after pleading with world leaders at the COP26 climate change summit to cut emissions.

Three reasons why the Government ignores this region at its peril, Mr Johnson should be advised to recall his formative political years as MP for Henley in the Thames Valley. When Crossrail is open, it will take just over 20 minutes to travel by train from nearby Reading to London – a distance of around 30 miles. Services will be every five minutes.

Boris Johnson during a visit to a HS2 construction site last year.

By way of contrast, the fastest journey time between Sheffield and Leeds – a comparative distance – is 40 minutes and the average journey is one hour and six minutes according to Trainline. Services are limited to approximately four an hour on average due to infrastructure constraints entirely illustrative of the North-South political, economic, wealth and policy divide.

A legacy of decades of under-investment by successive governments – Tory and Labour – HS2 and, critically, Northern Powerhouse Rail, are a once-in-a-generation opportunity, as the two councils stress, to transform rail links, generate jobs, spread prosperity and create new opportunities for people to advance their careers across the whole county and beyond.

Yet, if the Government decides to prioritise the HS2 route from London to Birmingham, and then Manchester, it will disadvantage this region incalculably and also compromise the very viability of NPR – its own business case depends on its ability to use the same high-speed rail infrastructure in the North.

And to all those, from the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to ordinary taxpayers who might still view HS2 as an unjustifiable expense after the Covid pandemic, this newspaper commends the words of Leeds and Sheffield Councils.

Yorkshire's future will be compromised if the eastern leg of HS2 is scaled back, The Yorkshire Post argues.

HS2 is not about getting to London quicker. It is about unlocking the economic benefits for our region “decades earlier than expected” if the Government makes a step change in policy and prioritises the connection between Leeds and Sheffield because of its benefits in terms of social mobility and attracting private investment.

Two great Yorkshire cities with so much more to offer this county, and country, they now need a high-speed rail link that is commensurate with their global reputations and their shared ambition to become world leaders when it comes to the net zero agenda and green transport.

Again, it is why Boris Johnson – and his Cabinet – ignore Leeds, Sheffield and Yorkshire at their collective peril if they’re committed to levelling up and a carbon-free future.

For, if they fail this defining test of policy and trust, they will be condemning this county – and region – to secondary status at a time when it could, and should, be powering the country’s economic revival. They will also, without question, make their route back to power all the more fraught as a betrayal on this scale, should it transpire, will long ring in the ears of the electorate.

Ministers, think again before it is too late.

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