First, successive governments have failed to grasp the wider benefits of the leg to Leeds – there would then be scope to build a spur off the East Coast Main Line to Doncaster Sheffield Airport for freight and passengers.
Second, the urgency of the latest submission from political and business leaders is a clear acknowledgement that this region has not pressed its case effectively in the past despite HS2 being launched here in October 2014.
Third, there’s the question of trust – and whether the Government is sincere about its ‘levelling up’ agenda and the commitments made to ‘red wall’ voters at the last election. This saw Boris Johnson commit to HS2, subject to a review, which, in turn, endorsed high-speed rail early last year.
This appeared to stay unchanged – the PM told MPs on February 10 this year: “I can certainly confirm that we are going to develop the eastern leg as well as the whole of the HS2.”
More recently, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in late May: “We are going to complete HS2 and include HS2 on the eastern leg to Leeds.”
What is new, however, is the volume of off-the-record briefings from Whitehall ‘sources’ suggesting that the Leeds to Birmingham leg of HS2 will be scrapped in the near future.
And the fact that Ministers have not denied these reports is as ominous as a scenario that could soon see London, Birmingham and Manchester served by both a recently modernised West Coast Main Line and HS2 while this side of the Pennines has to make do with a patched up East Coast Main Line and insufficient capacity to run sufficient trains.
The question is whether this week’s intervention by leaders here is, in fact, just in time to stop the political equivalent of the Great Train Robbery.
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