Six major rail projects that connect Yorkshire to other parts of the North are among 28 schemes nationwide that could be funded if the Government scrapped its controversial HS2 high speed scheme, an influential pressure group says today.
A report to be launched at Westminster by David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary and an East Yorkshire MP, says many of the proposals require “only relatively small sums of money to achieve vast benefits for local communities”.
They include an upgrade to the Settle to Carlisle railway that would create a new inter-city route between Leeds and the Scottish border, and a £1bn “supertram” for Leeds, modelled on the system in Munich, which would use existing rail lines from the suburbs before going underground in the city centre.
The report, complied by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, says the city’s existing transport network is “woefully inadequate” and that although “several hundred thousand people commute into Leeds every day, only 3.7 per cent of them do so by trains, which are full to capacity”.
Other plans include reopening the train lines from Beverley to York, an operation the organisation says could be completed within eight years at a cost of £300m, and from Blackburn to Hellifield in the Yorkshire Dales, which would cost £15m.
The report also puts forward a four-year, £100m project to reopen the Skipton to Colne railway.
Its most ambitious proposal, intended to replace HS2 and the so-called HS3 Northern Powerhouse Rail project, is said to be £21bn cheaper than HS2 and would not touch the nearly 100 homes and more than 50 commercial properties in Yorkshire that HS2 has earmarked for demolition.
The alternative High Speed UK North plan would see a “radical modernisation” of the TransPennine route, which its backers say “offers a much cheaper design giving far more benefits than current proposals”.
They include the reopening of the Woodhead Tunnels beneath the Pennines as part of a new east-west high speed “spine railway”, new stations in Sheffield and Bradford, and a novel “rolling highway” in which lorries are transported on rails between the M1 and M60, to relieve the overcrowded A628 route through the Pennines.
Quentin Macdonald, one of the rail engineers behind the proposal, said: “What we need is a proper, new high speed linking line joining Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds as the big triangle.”
He said the existing HS2 proposal was “probably doomed”, adding: “There are enough people who are now seriously against it”.
Today’s report comes a day after the outgoing head of the National Audit Office, Sir Amyas Morse, said the volume of cash “sunk” into HS2 would make scrapping it in its entirety “very difficult”.
But Mr Macdonald said: “It’s cheaper to actually write off the sunk costs than to carry on with something that’s disastrous.”
Mr Davis, who has also called for HS2 to be cancelled, said the new projects would “bridge the divide between North and South, boost economic growth, improve capacity in our transport networks and provide a better service to passengers”.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Instead of spending £56bn on a vanity project, the Government should heed this report.
“We have long argued that HS2 is a waste of taxpayers’ money and the report makes that fact even clearer.”