Building HS2 Eastern Leg to Leeds would 'hinder' Levelling Up, MP suggests, amid speculation it's about to be axed

The construction of the HS2 eastern leg to Leeds would have “hindered” the levelling up process for towns and villages across Yorkshire, an MP has suggested.

It is widely expected that the proposed high-speed line from Birmingham through Yorkshire will be officially killed off tomorrow, when it is thought that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will finally unveil the long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan.

Alex Stafford, the Conservative MP for Rother Valley, has long-argued that more rural or town-based seats like his would face “destruction” if the infrastructure project went ahead, but in return would get “literally no positive benefit”.

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While there has been outrage from a number of figures on both sides of the political divide at the revelations that the planned line is set to be axed, Mr Stafford has described the developments as “very very pleasing news, very good news”.

One of the two tunnels at the south portal HS2 align compound, in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire (PA)

He told The Yorkshire Post: “When I stood for election in 2019 I stood on that platform of fighting this every step of the

way.

“So it’s really good that the Government has listened to our lobbying. Other MPs like me have said ‘this is not what we want, this is not what we need and bad for our area’.

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“So I’m very pleased that the Government has listened to what actual people want. This is a very good news story for Rother Valley.”

Mr Stafford believes the benefits of the project would be restricted to those living in urban communities, while the bill gets passed on to taxpayers everywhere.

“There would have been advantages if you lived in central Leeds”, he said. “But I think it actually hinders the levelling up process of the majority of people who don’t live in Leeds city centre.

“We have all the negatives.

“The destruction of our habitats, the destruction of our homes – but it doesn’t stop anywhere.

“There’s literally no positive benefit for us apart from us having to pay a vast amount of money.”

Along with the anticipated news on HS2, it is thought that the Northern Powerhouse Rail project – promised personally by the Prime Minister – could also be downgraded.

Rather than a newly constructed line, Northern Powerhouse Rail is now considered likely to involve improvements to existing lines and infrastructure between Leeds and Manchester.

Yesterday, Number 10 insisted that improving rail links between and within the North and Midlands were still a priority for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the rest of the Government.

“Grant Shapps will set out the full details on Thursday,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“But we are fully committed to strengthening the rail links in our cities, across the Midlands and the North.

“He recognises the importance of improving journey times across the country.”

Asked whether the plans had been scaled back due to Treasury opposition to the cost, the spokesman said: “These are ambitious plans which will involve significant sums of public money.”

When the measures are announced tomorrow, The Department for Transport will argue that HS2 trains will still serve Leeds but on the mainline rather than HS2 tracks, saving tens of billions of pounds.

It will insist that its plan to invest £96bn on the existing network will deliver benefits faster and more cost-effectively.