HS2 supporters are losing the argument over saving Eastern leg, senior Labour MP warns

HS2 supporters should be “more ambitious” and call for the line to be expanded up to Scotland, a senior MP has said as he admitted backers of the high-speed rail scheme are currently losing the argument over its future.

Work has started on the HS2 route in the South but doubts are growing on whether the line will ever reach Yorkshire. Picture: PA

Graham Stringer, chair of the City Regional Transport All Parliamentary Party Group and Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, told a levelling up conference in Manchester yesterday those in favour of HS2 are currently “on the back foot” as rumours grow that the Eastern leg of the route between Birmingham and Leeds will be scrapped over cost concerns.

“Those of us who have supported HS2 since it was announced are on the back foot. We should be more ambitious,” he said.

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“The Treasury and those people who think it is too big a project are winning the debate.

“I think both for constitutional reasons as well as pure transport reasons, we should be arguing for HS2 to go to Scotland, to extend from where it is, and to link with HS1 as the original plan.

“This is a project that should last for at least 100 years - the Victorian network has obviously for nearly 200 years.”

He said the nation has “poor transport infrastructure at every level” with the lowest motorway density in Europe.

“Some people might think that's a good thing, but if you've got the lowest motorway density compared to other European countries, then you have to compensate for it, not just with HS2, but with the cross-country route [between Liverpool and Hull and known as Northern Powerhouse Rail].

“We should be much more ambitious and try to turn around some of the debate that I'm afraid we are losing.”

The future of the HS2 Eastern leg is set to be confirmed when the Government publishes its Integrated Rail Plan, which was originally due to be released last year but has been delayed with no official publication date yet confirmed.

Martin Tugwell, chief executive of Transport for the North, said the IRP needs to be published “sooner rather than later”.

“Only then can we understand what it is that we're working with. But more importantly, we need them to have the commitment to deliver it,” he said.

“It is great to have a strategy, it is great to have a plan, but we need to have the funding to actually make it happen on the ground.

“What I would hope we get from the publication of the IRP is that commitment, that lon- term commitment which reflects how in London and the South-East, you see these major projects with these long timescales being supported by government.

“We need that kind of commitment to things like Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2, then we need to see it being delivered to be giving the confidence to our communities and our businesses that we will be able to realise their potential.”

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