Fury from Yorkshire council leaders over HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail announcements

Yorkshire council leaders have reacted with fury to the Government’s announcements on HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail - and questioned whether newly promised schemes will ever see the light of day.

Councillor James Lewis, Labour leader of Leeds City Council, said he was dismayed by the decision to prevent the Eastern leg of HS2 getting to Leeds, with the Government instead promising a “study” on how it can eventually join the route by other means.

“After more than 10 years of effort, investment and planning based on the government’s clear proposal to bring HS2 to Leeds, we have been left extremely disappointed and frustrated by today’s announcement which only offers more studies, reviews and uncertainty for high-speed connections to our city - but, sadly, we are not surprised,” he said.

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“This is not the first time our city has been promised major infrastructure investment, only for it to be curtailed or cancelled. It is 10 years this month since the Transpennine Route upgrade was announced, yet we are still waiting for the fully-defined scheme, and it is 30 years since the idea of a ‘supertram’ was first mentioned.”

Leeds City Council leader James Lewis.

The Government has promised a mass transit system for Leeds but Coun Lewis said “we will reserve judgement on delivery until we see spades in the ground”.

Leeds and Sheffield Council leaders had last week jointly called for the HS2 Eastern leg to be delivered in full but while the revised plans will eventually see HS2 trains run to Sheffield by the mid-2040s, the line itself will not reach the city.

Councillor Terry Fox, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “HS2 is a once in a generation investment and I am furious that the Government have taken the decision to axe the eastern leg and level up rail connectivity in the North. It is a betrayal.

“We are digesting the news from today, however I currently cannot see any benefits to Sheffield from today’s announcement. We are England’s fourth-largest city, a major transport hub and when the details of the report began to leak this week, the rumours were inconceivable.

Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchliffe

“As it turns out, the announcement is even worse than the rumours – we are in fact a victim of the great train robbery of 2021.

“This announcement has many wide-ranging implications and we will be seeking answers from Government on what this means for people whose lives, homes and futures have been affected by the planned construction of HS2 and who are now left distressed by today’s U-turn.

“With a national park on our doorstep, two leading universities and an internationally-recognised hub of engineering innovation, our region is primed to unlock even more potential, and it is outrageous that Government has not taken the opportunity to do so by delivering HS2 in full by overhauling connectivity in the North as it has done in the South.”

Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchliffe said the Government had missed a “golden opportunity” by refusing a new station and direct link to Northern Powerhouse Rail for the city.

She added: “We’re not going to take no for an answer. It’s wrong-headed economics for the North and for the country not to connect Bradford so we will fight on.

“Tomorrow marks two months to the day since the Government created the Department for Levelling Up and said levelling up was its central mission. There could hardly be a better test of the government’s commitment to levelling up than Bradford.

“This blow will not dent out ambition. We will not let our people down, and we absolutely will not rest in making sure everyone in Bradford has just as good life chances as those people in the Tory heartlands of Surrey.”

Keith Aspden, the Liberal Democrat leader of York City Council, said: “The Government has once again failed to listen to the voices of Yorkshire and the North, who will be most impacted by the consequences of this decision.

“Failure to deliver on HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail is a betrayal of the North and the levelling up agenda, which continues to be a vapid political slogan.”

However, there was a more positive reaction to the HS2 cancellation in Rotherham, which would have had the line run through communities but with no direct stop.

Labour council leader Chris Read said the change was a “victory for common sense at last”.

Coun Read said: “There is strong opposition to HS2 from communities across Rotherham because of the damage it threatened to do to local communities while offering next-to-no benefit for our residents or economy.

"I always said this was a fight we could win, and so it has turned out to be. It is a victory for common sense at last and local campaign groups should take huge credit for their steadfast opposition – it is them I am most happy for today, and the government must give them cast iron guarantees that their nightmare is over.

“The reality is that this was a mess of this government’s own making, which has hung over our communities for far too long already. The government have finally landed on a solution which hinges on electrifying the Midland Mainline – a scheme they shelved years ago despite lobbying from South Yorkshire. Now they must keep their wider ambition for rail in the North, not just slash and burn.

"That means supporting us to bring Rotherham rail services back onto the mainline for the first time in a generation, ensuring no local journeys between Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster and Leeds are lost, and creating enough capacity on the network north of Sheffield to ensure Midland station isn’t the end of the line.”

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