Boris Johnson confirms HS2 Eastern Leg to Leeds will be axed

The HS2 Eastern leg to Leeds will be axed today in the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed.

Writing exclusively for The Yorkshire Post today, Mr Johnson confirmed the current plan for the HS2 link to Leeds is being dropped with a “new study” ordered on the best way to eventually get the city connected to the network.

In February this year, Mr Johnson had told Parliament: “I can certainly confirm that we are going to develop the eastern leg as well as the whole of the HS2.”

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But it is understood the route to Leeds is now being axed in favour of a Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway line with high-speed trains then running up to existing slower track up to Sheffield – meaning HS2 trains will reach Yorkshire but the high-speed line itself will not.

File photo dated 11/02/20 of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Curzon Street railway station in Birmingham where the HS2 rail project is under construction (PA)

Mr Johnson said: “HS2 will come to Sheffield, meaning a trip to or from London will take just one hour 27 minutes – precisely the same as under the old HS2 plans.

“We’ll look at how to get HS2 to Leeds too, with a new study on the best way to make it happen.”

Mr Johnson said the Midland Main Line will be “electrified and expanded”, as will the Trans-Pennine Main Line. The overall IRP is to detail what the Government is describing as a new £96bn programme of investment, but The Yorkshire Post understands it is based on transferring money earmarked for previous plans to the amended proposals, rather than totally new funding.

The Prime Minister said “long stretches of brand new high-speed track” will be part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project to reduce journey times between Leeds and Manchester.

However, he made no mention of including Bradford directly on an entirely new NPR route between Leeds and Manchester, as northern leaders have been calling for. But he said route upgrades between Leeds and Bradford will take place “by the early 2030s” to halve journey times, while committing to NPR reaching York.

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He also committed to the creation of a metro system for Leeds and the surrounding area which will be known as West Yorkshire Mass Transit. Mr Johnson defended the decision to scrap previous plans. “Under the original blueprint, first drawn up more than a decade ago, Yorkshire would have not have seen the benefits of our investment until at least the 2040s,” he said.

He added: “If we are to see levelling up in action now, we must rapidly transform the services that matter to people most.

“That’s why the Integrated Rail Plan will be the biggest transport investment programme in a century, delivering meaningful transport connections for more passengers across the country, more quickly – with both high-speed journeys and better local services, it will ensure no town or city is left behind.”.

Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said Labour would build HS2 and NPR in full, adding: “The Conservatives must deliver on the promises they have made time and time again, not cut back and hope people won’t notice.”