Labour mayors demand HS2 goes to the North against the wishes of Yorkshire voters

Labour’s Northern mayors are to make a unified plea to the Prime Minister to not further scale back HS2, as new polling suggests that the North is split on whether to go ahead with the project.

Today in Leeds, the mayors of South and West Yorkshire will meet with those of Manchester, Liverpool and London to call for the flagship line to be safeguarded between London and Manchester, amid reports that it will be scaled back by the Prime Minister.

Rishi Sunak is currently reviewing how the cost of the estimated £100 billion rail project can be “controlled” after a minister yesterday warned costs have roughly tripled over its lifetime.

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Chris Philp, a Home Office minister, said that no decision has been taken whether to axe or delay the northern leg of the route between Birmingham and Manchester, after ministers previously decided to scrap the Leeds leg of the line.

Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin.Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin.
Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin.

It comes as new YouGov polling suggested that many parts of the North are split over whether to continue with the project at all, as well as its Northern leg.

The research commissioned by Bradshaw Advisory, found that across the North 34 per cent of voters supported the idea of HS2, while it was opposed by 40 per cent.

However, voters in Yorkshire were much more pessimistic about the route, with only 24 per cent supporting the line, compared to 47 per cent who opposed it.

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Tom Lees, Bradshaw Advisory’s Managing Director said: “Our research shows that Northerners are clearly not in favour of building HS2. In fact, the only region that is in favour of building the scheme is London.

“This is perhaps a reflection of the fact that the scheme may not actually arrive in the North for another 20 years, that the primary type of transport used in our part of the world is the car and that the scheme is being built from London up the country.

“However, the research also shows that people are quite evenly split about whether the scheme should continue on to Manchester or be stopped at Birmingham in an attempt to save money.”

It comes as William Hague, the former Conservative leader, said that HS2 should have been scrapped “years ago”.

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Mr Hague, an ally of Mr Sunak who used to represent his North Yorkshire seat of Richmond, told Times Radio: ““I should have been cancelled a few years ago when it was clear that the whole thing was out of control, that the costs were out of control, they wouldn’t be able to ever go to Leeds.

“Now you’ve got this classic problem if you’re halfway through something and it’s been terribly badly managed, really a national disgrace as a project, do you say, well okay that’s it, I’m stopping this, or do you say, well actually now we’re halfway through, we have to at least complete and make sense of the parts that we can still do.”

Yesterday morning, Chris Philp, the Home Office minister insisted that the people of the North are “definitely not” second-class citizens, after Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, claimed.

Mr Bunrham told GB News that he will consider legal action against the Government if plans to bring HS2 trains to Manchester fall through.

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“All of our development plans are linked to it,” he said, adding: “If they pull the plug, they are kind of ripping the heart out of the economic development plan for Greater Manchester and parts of the North.

“So all options would absolutely be on the table and I've written to the Prime Minister. Not to consult us and not even to let us put the case - all options would definitely be on the table.

“We're getting stronger in terms of the voice of the North. We don't seek fights with Whitehall, but we know how to answer them back now and we're not just going to lie down and accept the way Whitehall has always treated the North of England, we are fighting back.

“We're getting organised. We're not going to take things lying down, so they'll be hearing from us.”