Rail report risks betraying North over HS2 – The Yorkshire Post says

THERE will be many people who concur with the National Infrastructure Commission’s appraisal that long-overdue improvements to local and regional rail services should take precedence over the eastern leg of HS2 to Sheffield and Leeds due to pressure on public funds.

A commuter at Leeds Station as the National Infrastructure Commission publishes its rail review.

Yet, while The Yorkshire Post has always argued that schemes like Northern Powerhouse Rail and other bespoke projects to increase capacity on the creaking network need to be undertaken in tandem with high-speed rail, this report’s conclusions has potentially damaging consequences for the region if implemented by Ministers.

First, it fails to recognise that the North has suffered from decades of under-investment in its transport infrastructure while London and the South continue to enjoy a ‘blank cheque’ approach when it comes to landmark schemes like Crossrail – it took nearly 40 years for the ubiquitous Pacer trains to be taken out of service.

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Second, the proposed downgrading of HS2 to Yorkshire will leave this region at a disadvantage when it was always intended to be a nationwide project – fault can be traced back to David Cameron for failing to insist that building work began in the North and London simultaneously.

Commuters at Leeds Station.

Finally, delays to the completion of HS2 impact negatively on the business case for a new high-speed line across the Pennines – it was always intended that both ventures would use the same infrastructure and trains wherever possible to keep the costs down.

Now the NIC’s task was an invidious one and that it is not responsible for politicians guilty of over-promising and under-delivering. But, given its acceptance that fast and reliable public transport can drive economic growth, it’s clear that more needs to be done by leaders here to keep the Northern Powerhouse and ‘levelling up’ agendas on track. And, after the work of the past decade, that really is a depressing indictment.

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What rail improvement schemes should take precedence?