Bringing HS2 services to Leeds 'absolutely essential', says Patrick McLoughlin

Bringing HS2 services to Leeds is "absolutely essential", new Transport for the North chairman Patrick McLoughlin has told MPs.

The former Conservative Transport Secretary and Derbyshire Dales MP made his first public appearance in front of the Transport Select Committee on Wednesday morning since being appointed in the £60,000-a-year role as TfN chairman last month.

The committee has launched an inquiry into the Government's much-criticised Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands.

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One aspect of the plan, announced in November, is that the HS2 Eastern leg line was being curtailed and would no longer run to Leeds but instead finish in the East Midlands.

Transport for the North chair Patrick McLoughlin gave evidence to MPs on Wednesday morning.

Under the Government's proposals, HS2 trains will run on existing track up to Sheffield while it has launched a study into how best to eventually connect HS2 services to Leeds.

Lord McLoughlin said the HS2 route has evolved over the years.

"I actually think taking HS2 into Derby and into Nottingham is the right thing to do," he said.

"Originally the plan was to have a brand new station at Meadowhall and not go into Sheffield city centre. Sheffield Council and the local economies all made the case it should go into Sheffield city centre.

"That was an alteration which led to a benefit to Chesterfield also getting into that link.

"I'm very interested to see how the Government is now going to address making sure how we get those services to Leeds, which I think is absolutely essential given the size of Leeds."

Lord McLoughlin was asked by MPs what the benefits of the Integrated Rail Plan were for other parts of the country outside of the Midlands and North.

He said: "You've only got to look at the levels of investment being seen in around the cities or cities prepare for HS two and perhaps the most notable one at the moment in transport for the North is Birmingham. Go and look around Birmingham and see what investment has been attracted to Birmingham.

"There was also investment that was coming to Leeds on the back of HS2 going to Leeds.

"I think it's absolutely fundamental that our cities are great cities outside London. We don't just conglomerate everything into London.

"What I want to see is young people and our populations getting the chances that they would get in London spread out to our cities too."

Lord McLoughlin said he was sympathetic to people living on the planned HS2 route who were concerned about the impact it would have on their lives but said he believed it would ultimately prove its worth.

"I never criticise those people who were opposed to HS2 because it went through their areas or whatever.

"I slightly do get a little concerned when certain people were sort of saying to me, the trouble of HS2 is it's too expensive. One of the reasons why it pushed up the price was to try and alleviate some of the environmental damage going through their particular areas. That's the government acting responsibly as a developer and has to be done.

"But I don't underestimate the tremendous problems it creates when a brand new line is going through an area which has not been served by the railways, or by an infrastructure project.

"I've never yet found an infrastructure project which has been met with open arms, saying 'This is the best thing that's ever been built' by the locality until after it's been built. And then afterwards they've usually say, 'Actually, this was bloody a good idea, why didn't you do it sooner?'"

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