Government 'completely committed' to ensuring HS2 trains reach Leeds

A senior Transport Minister said he is “completely committed” to ensuring HS2 trains reach Leeds and the line could be built as originally planned.

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).

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”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Andrew Stephenson, Minister for HS2, said the project has proved to be extremely divisive and many people in Yorkshire objected to the original plans, but he still wants to see services reach Leeds and the study will determine “the best way to do that”.

HS2 Minister Andrew StephensonHS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson
HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson

“I’m completely committed to HS2 trains arriving in Leeds,” he told the Yorkshire Post.

“The existing plans are still there and the land is still safeguarded.

“If this study says the original plan is the best way forward, there is nothing to stop us from building the eastern leg as originally proposed.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Stephenson said the Government will set out when the study is due to take place “very soon” and he does not want any land - that was bought to pave the way for the original route in Yorkshire - to be released until that study is complete.

The improvements set out in the Government's Integrated Rail PlanThe improvements set out in the Government's Integrated Rail Plan
The improvements set out in the Government's Integrated Rail Plan
Read More
Boris Johnson announces Russia sanctions after troops sent to Ukraine

He said: “I don’t want to rule out any option at this stage. We need to look at the existing plans. We need to look at plans for upgrades, but we also need to look at hybrid plans, where some of it will be new track and some of it will be upgraded.

“We want to see better rail services, we want to see more resilience, we want to see more capacity. But we also want to see levelling up and regeneration taking place.

“This study will look at all of that and come up with a solution. As soon as it does, we can take a decision on safeguarding - I don’t want to keep it indefinitely.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Stephenson is also the Minister in charge of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), and he insisted that high-speed rail project will improve connectivity for passengers, cut journey times and significantly increase capacity.

The Government has promised £17.2bn for a 40-mile high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden in Yorkshire.

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

The Government has said that building the NPR line that was suggested by TfN would cost an extra £18bn, open in 2043 and shave just four minutes off the journey between Manchester and Leeds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But it also states that under the new plans, some NPR trains will begin running this decade, and journeys between Manchester and Leeds will be 22 minutes faster.

According to the 162-page Integrated Rail Plan plan, the upgrades will cut journey times from Leeds to Liverpool to 73 minutes (currently 106) and Leeds to Bradford to 12 minutes (currently 20).

Transport for the North is still working on its preferred plans for the high-speed rail network and exploring alternative funding options, after it met with Department for Transport officials.

Mr Stephenson said he is “more than happy” to listen to proposals for additional infrastructure that is privately funded.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He added: “What we’ve said in the Integrated Rail Plan is this is the core network we’re investing in, but we’re happy to take an adaptive approach if people want to bring forward different ideas and different ways of looking at things and ways of bringing in private sector finance.”