After all, many of the scheme’s failings – and resulting loss of public confidence – stem back to decisions taken nearly a decade ago when David Cameron’s government gave the green light to HS2.
Specifically, Mr Cameron was challenged at Prime Minister’s Questions in 2012 by Kris Hopkins, the then Keighley MP, to order work to begin in “West Yorkshire” because of the benefits “to the economy and jobs in the North”.
Yet, just like so many of Boris Johnson’s evasive answers at PMQs, Mr Cameron totally ignored the specific question and, instead, appealed to all MPs to “get on board this high-speed rail revolution”.
And, as Mr Shapps conceded to Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn in the House of Commons, the Oakervee Review into all aspects of HS2 concluded that it is too late to switch the focus of construction to the North; ironically Mr Cameron chose Leeds as the location to launch the project in 2014.
That said, there’s still time for Mr Shapps to ensure the necessary planning is being done so that there are no further delays to the HS2 links to both Manchester and Leeds.
Equally, the Cabinet minister needs to do far more to address more immediate problems on the region’s rail network – namely capacity issues around Manchester that have a direct bearing on services across the North and which were one of the primary causes of the chaos that followed the May 2018 timetable changes. Three years down the line from that fiasco, the slow rate of progress overhauling the region’s rail infrastructure has done little to dispel the view that investment begins and ends in London. Over to you, Mr Shapps.
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