Council leaders call for more clarity on Leeds leg of HS2

The section of HS2 set to run through Leeds should be developed at the same time as the Manchester and Liverpool leg, council leaders have claimed.

Politicians believe the high-speed rail project’s eastern leg – which runs through Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham – should progress at the same time as the western leg, as this would ‘aid economic recovery’ following the COVID-19 outbreak.

The HS2 East group, which is co-chaired by Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, warned any delay to progressing its construction will critically undermine both investor confidence in towns and cities and the government’s plan to ‘level up the country’.

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Although the Government has previously committed to delivering HS2 Phase 2B and Northern Powerhouse Rail, the HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson gave a speech in February speaking of the need to bring forward legislation to bring high-speed rail into Manchester, but made no mention of Leeds.

The group believes cities like Leeds could lose out if they have to play second fiddle to Manchester.The group believes cities like Leeds could lose out if they have to play second fiddle to Manchester.
The group believes cities like Leeds could lose out if they have to play second fiddle to Manchester. | jpimedia

The HS2 east group claims the lack of clarity has led to concerns over when the route will begin to be delivered, and how this will impact on towns and cities along the route which are already suffering from network congestion.

Coun Blake said: “For every year the eastern leg of HS2 is delayed, the Leeds City Region alone would suffer a loss of £1.7 billion while still relying on rail infrastructure built more than 100 years ago. Without progressing the eastern leg of HS2, our regions are being left behind.

“As we continue to assess the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government must commit to building the eastern leg of HS2 at the same time as the western leg, boosting our economic recovery and our long-term resilience, and creating a genuine shift towards the climate agenda. By doing so our regions can reach our potential.”

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The comments come as deadline for evidence submissions to National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to inform their rail needs assessment for the North and Midlands. From this, the government will develop an integrated rail plan which will identify the best way to deliver HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, Midlands Engine Rail and other rail investments. The integrated rail plan is expected to be published by the end of the year.