The announcement that a long-awaited overhaul of the nation’s railway network had been dramatically revised, with plans for the Yorkshire region scaled back, provoked widespread anger among politicians in the North.
But Mr Khan’s intervention as one of the South’s most prominent political figures has sent the clearest message yet to Ministers over the impact which the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), unveiled by the Government on Thursday last week, will have on the whole country.
Writing for The Yorkshire Post today, the Labour politician said: “I have made clear my support for HS2 and that it would be wrong to scrap the eastern leg.
“I can only hope that at some point the Government comes to its senses and sees that delivering the whole of the project, as well as the new Leeds to Liverpool route of Northern Powerhouse Rail, including the new station in Bradford, is vital to the region’s long-term development.
“The cancellation of such crucial plans was a painful blow not just for Yorkshire but the whole of the North of England and beyond, just as cuts to London’s transport will not just affect the capital but will have repercussions up and down the country.”
Mr Khan, who succeeded Boris Johnson as Mayor of London in 2016, said the capital and the North should be seen as partners rather than as competitors.
He highlighted the potential impact of looming funding cuts to Transport for London could have on Yorkshire’s economy.
He pointed towards the close links with the region as electric buses for London’s 9,000-strong fleet are manufactured for TfL in North Yorkshire and state-of-the-art new Tube trains are due to be built in East Yorkshire.
Mr Khan added: “Denying funding to TfL and axing significant chunks of the flagship national rail programme makes all our lives harder, at a time when things are already hard enough.”
The Government is facing mounting pressure to rethink its plans for rail improvements, with cross-party Yorkshire and Humber councils due to send the Prime Minister a joint letter calling for a “credible alternative plan”.
The IRP now stops HS2 in the East Midlands rather than Leeds. But Transport Minister Andrew Stephenson told Parliament that given a £100m study has been ordered into how to get HS2 trains to Leeds, the legal safeguarding of land along the proposed route in Yorkshire still remains in place.
He said: "On the Eastern leg, that we have committed and funded through the integrated rail plan to build a first phase from the west midlands to the east midlands, and there is now £100 million for further work to look at the best way to get HS2 trains from there through to Leeds. For the time being, therefore, the plans to build the full eastern leg remain as they are. No safeguarding has been lifted, and that is something that will be changed only after we have the outcome of the study.”
However, he added the Government “does not intend to U-turn” on the prospect of a full new high-speed line between Manchester and Leeds via Bradford due to cost reasons.
Strategic transport network plan for the UK
The Prime Minister has pledged to create a strategic transport network across the UK following a major review.
Sir Peter Hendy was asked to undertake the Union Connectivity Review by the Government in a bid to improve transport and to shore up the Union.
One of the key recommendations of the report is to create a UKNet, which would map out the strategic locations across the country and plot how best to link them together, while also providing extra funding for under-performing areas of the network.
The Prime Minister pledged to set up UKNet “right away”. He said the review was an “inspiring vision”.
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