Government 'absolutely committed' to ensuring HS2 trains reach Leeds

The Government “remains absolutely committed” to making sure HS2 trains reach Leeds and it is “keen to crack on” and determine the best way to do that, a senior civil servant has claimed.

Bernadette Kelly, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Transport, told Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee yesterday a decision will be made once a £100m study has assessed options for running services to West Yorkshire.

However, she did not set out a timeframe for the long-awaited study.

The Government sparked a backlash, when it appeared to scale back plans for the high-speed line in November as part of its £96bn Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).

Bernadette Kelly, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Transport, told Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee that HS2 trains will reach Leeds

According to the plan, the eastern leg of HS2 will stop at East Midlands Parkway, but trains will then run on an existing line to Sheffield and £100m will be spent on a study that will “look at the most effective way to run HS2 trains to Leeds”.

Ms Kelly said: “We’ve been very clear in the IRP that the Government remains absolutely committed to running HS2 services to Leeds.

“What remains undecided is the exact means of doing that.

“That is subject now to a further study, which is the £100m allocated in the IRP to look at options for running services to Leeds, as well as looking at a mass transit system in Leeds.

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“I’m not able to say more at this stage about exactly how that work will run – that’s something we are working through now.”

She added: “We’re keen to crack on, absolutely. We know obviously that is very important to as well Leeds, that we are able to set out exactly how that work is going to happen.”

She also told the committee the £100m study will involve “significant design and development work” and once it has been completed, the Government will be able to provide a “much firmer” cost estimate for the eastern leg of HS2.

HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson has previously said the study will look at the original plans for building the HS2 line to Leeds, upgrades to existing infrastructure and “hybrid plans”.

The Minister also said he does not want any land – that was bought to pave the way for the original route – to be released until the study is complete.

It comes as Northern leaders have repeatedly criticised the Government for scaling back HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

They claim that both projects must be delivered in full to transform the North’s outdated infrastructure and provide the additional capacity and connectivity that passengers need.

In November, the Government promised £17.2bn for a 40-mile high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden in Yorkshire, as part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail project.

It also opted to upgrade and electrify the existing Transpennine Main Line as part of a £5.4bn project, but refused to build new lines between Leeds and Liverpool, via Bradford, which Transport for the North had been calling for.

The Government said Transport for the North’s preferred option would cost an extra £18bn, open in 2043 and shave just four minutes off the journey between Manchester and Leeds.

But it also stated that under the new proposals in the Integrated Rail Plan, some Northern Powerhouse Rail trains will begin running this decade, and journeys between Manchester and Leeds will be 22 minutes faster.