Ex-rail minister Andrew Jones says Government must deliver HS2 in full

Former rail minister Andrew Jones has called on the Government to deliver the HS2 Eastern leg in full as doubts continue to grow over whether the high-speed rail line will ever reach Yorkshire.

Mr Jones, Conservative MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough and co-chair of the Transport Across The North All Party Parliament Group, told The Yorkshire Post he had “no doubt” that the scheme should go ahead as speculation mounts it will either be scrapped or mothballed due to rising costs.

Planning work on the Birmingham to Leeds section of the route known as the Eastern leg of HS2 has been suspended while the findings of the Government’s delayed Integrated Rail Plan are awaited.

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Construction work on the first phase between London and Birmingham is already underway, while planning on the western leg between Crewe and Manchester is being brought forward.

Ex-rail minister Andrew Jones.

Speaking at the Transport for the North conference in Leeds yesterday, Mr Jones - who had two spells as a transport minister under David Cameron and Theresa May’s Governments - said it was vital for the region that HS2 was delivered in full, along with the intended Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme running from Liverpool to Hull.

“Connectivity isn’t a North-South question, it is an all around question. People sometimes think it is a question of one or the other. It is not an ‘or’, it is an ‘and’ - it is both,” he said.

“I spent three years at the Department for Transport - I was bus minister, roads minister and rail minister during that period. I’m a fan of HS2 and I was the minister that got the first phase through the final stages of its Parliamentary journey and that is now in construction.

“I think that is really good news. When you think that we haven’t built a railway line north of London in England since the reign of Queen Victoria, you can see how we need to put more connectivity and capacity into our system.

“HS2 delivers that and that is why I want to see it in full - East and West - on top of Phase 1.

“The need for transport investment is significant. We are making a decision which will serve our country for 100 years. We are still enjoying the fruits of predecessors who made decisions in the Victorian era and we are still using them 150 years later. This is a big, long-term matter.

“Of course there should be cost control and it is right to have demanding questions and asking those who spend public money to ensure they do it wisely, effectively and with proper controls.

“But we need to press on with making the infrastructure investment that our country needs and for me in the North right now that is HS2 in full.”

Mr Jones said with the recent return of Parliament sitting in full, MPs have been able to press the Government more effectively on the need for the Eastern leg in person.

“I have no doubt that there are huge numbers of colleagues in the North who want to see this delivered and we are making our voice heard.

“I recognise how difficult this is for Government. They have spent over £400bn on Covid support, you add to that extra spending on healthcare, you add the money that hasn’t been taken in through depressed economic activity and any organisation that has half-a-trillion pounds less than it thought it would have only two years ago can’t frankly do business as usual.

“But we need to think about things from a generational perspective - it is that which is driving my desire to see transport investment. It is part of building back and building back better.”

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