The axing of high speed rail in Yorkshire would be an “awful” decision, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, as business leaders warned that the scenario would undermine crucial economic regeneration in the North.
According to reports, the HS2 rail route to Leeds and Sheffield could be scrapped under cost-cutting plans, prompting a furious backlash from some of the region’s politicians.
The claims are said to have come from the independent review panel led by former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee, who was asked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to look into whether to scrap the scheme. A report published last month suggested costs could soar by more than £20bn to £88bn.
When asked about the reports during a visit to Rodillian Academy in Lofthouse near Wakefield yesterday, Mr Corbyn told The Yorkshire Post: “The danger of axing everything north of Birmingham would be awful.
“The reality is that rail infrastructure investment north of Birmingham is much lower than London and the South East, and if it axed there then that indicates a lack of ambition to improve transport infrastructure to the North.”
Transport for the North said scaling back HS2 would be “a huge missed opportunity”, while Leeds Council leader Judith Blake warned of “grave” long term consequences for the economy if the rail link only reaches the Midlands.
The CBI, which is today calling for the Government to publish “a framework to devolve powers and reignite the regions”, said HS2 had a part to play in its vision to “ignite a new era of economic prosperity” in Yorkshire.
Beckie Hart, the business group’s Yorkshire director, said: “Building HS2 in full will help regenerate local economies, provide jobs and boost growth across communities in Yorkshire and elsewhere.
“Existing plans will deliver better connections between the towns, cities and international gateways that will assist the North’s long-term growth, and reflect business priorities across the country.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “The Secretary of State has established an independent review into HS2 which will provide the department with clear advice on how and whether the project should proceed.
“We are not going to pre-empt or prejudice this work with a running commentary on the review’s progress.”