Northern Powerhouse Rail downgrade 'even more damaging than HS2 axe', says Rachel Reeves

The downgrading of the Northern Powerhouse Rail route is an even bigger loss to Yorkshire than the axing of the HS2 route to Leeds, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has said.

The Leeds West MP told The Yorkshire Post that while the loss of HS2 route was “deeply damaging” the impact of the Government deciding against a new NPR high-speed line linking Leeds and Bradford with Manchester would have even bigger consequences for people locally.

It had been hoped the recent Integrated Rail Plan would include a full new line between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford but instead a new route will only run between Warrington and Marsden on the edge of Yorkshire before joining existing track. The Government say building the full new line would cost an additional £18bn and only result in minimal journey time improvements.

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But Ms Reeves highlighted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to fund a new Manchester to Leeds line in 2019 and said he wanted to do with Northern Powerhouse Rail “what we did with Crossrail in London”.

Rachel Reeves and Keir Starmer at Leeds railway station.

She said of the IRP: “It is a huge letdown for the North and a betrayal of everything that was promised.

“For Leeds to not be part of that HS2 high-speed network, I think is deeply damaging not just for Leeds but for Yorkshire. We lose our connection to that high-speed network and other parts of the country get it.

“It is desperately unfair for Leeds and Yorkshire but to get rid of Northern Powerhouse Rail as well in a way might be the biggest loss.”

Prior to becoming an MP in 2010, Ms Reeves lived in Leeds but worked for HBOS in Halifax and said the flaws in the region’s current railway network were starkly apparent.

“I used to get the train from Leeds station - it went Bramley, New Pudsey, Bradford Interchange on this two carriage Pacer train. At Bradford Interchange, it turned around and went backwards for the remainder of the journey. It took 40 minutes.

“That sort of thing that just wouldn’t be tolerated in London and the South-East.

“Transport spending in London is twice as high as it is in the North of England.

“How are you going to improve these journey times between Leeds and Bradford and Leeds and Manchester without new infrastructure? Leeds railway station is almost at 100 per cent capacity.”

Ms Reeves said she did not accept the Government’s argument that it is not economically viable to build the full new route.

“First of all, don’t make promises you can’t keep,” she said.

“If you think it is too expensive and you can’t afford it, then don’t announce it and have it as a centrepiece of your election manifesto.

“Second, the Government has put an arbitrary cap on investment that they won’t spend more than three per cent of GDP a year on investment. Find me any business that would pluck a number out of the air and say that is our cap on investment.

“These policies are short-sighted but also crucially broken promises to the North of England.”

Plan 'will cut journey times'

The Government’s Integrated Rail Plan proposals will see journey times between Leeds and Manchester cut from a current 55 minutes down to 33 minutes.

It also states that its revised HS2 plans - which will see the Eastern Leg route end in the East Midlands rather than Leeds as had been originally planned - will still see HS2 services serve Yorkshire via Sheffield and see train times from the South Yorkshire city to London that are the same as what was originally proposed.

HS2 trains will run up to Sheffield on existing track from the East Midlands while a study has been ordered into how to connect Leeds up to the revised route.

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