Hull to Selby railway electrification should be one of first projects funded with HS2 money, says council leader

The Hull to Selby railway electrification should be one of the first projects undertaken with funding freed up from scrapping the northern leg of HS2, Hull’s Labour leader has said.

Labour Leader Coun Daren Hale wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling for the project to be fast-tracked and saying it would be easier and quicker to deliver than others.

Coun Hale said Liberal Democrat council leader Coun Mike Ross was late to welcome the Network North plan and claimed it was to divert attention away from ongoing devolution wrangling.

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It comes as the Hull City Council leader wrote to Transport Secretary Mark Harper this week asking when the project to electrify the line from Hull to Leeds would begin.

Hull Paragon StationHull Paragon Station
Hull Paragon Station

Coun Ross said the project would bring huge benefits to Hull including supporting the expansion of its port and growing the green energy industry and the local economy.

Both calls come after the Network North plan set out £3bn in funding for the electrification of the railway lines from Hull to Leeds and Sheffield.

The plan also pledged to bring Hull into the Northern Powerhouse Rail Network as £19.8bn was taken from the scrapped HS2 Manchester leg and given to Yorkshire and the Humber.

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The Department for Transport stated the plans would cut journey times from Hull to Leeds by 10 minutes and to Manchester by 23 minutes.

But after unveiling the plans at the Conservative Party Conference last week, Mr Sunak has since said some of the projects were only illustrative examples of what could be done.

The prime minister told a business event in Nottingham that it would ultimately be up to local leaders what projects the money is spent on.

Coun Hale wrote in his letter to the prime minister that the Hull to Selby electrification would be an opportunity for an early win.

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He added the project, which was shelved by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was long overdue.

The Labour group leader said: “Of all the proposals for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Hull to Selby element would be the easiest to deliver in terms of time, and cost. This is because it does not require any land purchase, or complex engineering, such as tunnelling.

“This is why Hull was so disappointed at the Hull-Selby scheme’s removal in the Government’s final published plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail under the previous Prime Minister. At the time this seemed to condemn Hull to a future based upon diesel trains or hybrid engines, limiting our connectivity to the wider region.

“Given the previous chequered history of these plans over many different Governments, you may have seen there has been some scepticism from politicians and industrialists around the likelihood of some of these new schemes coming to fruition. We think the Hull-Selby scheme still provides the ideal opportunity to prove those doubters wrong.”

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Coun Hale said Coun Ross’ appeal to the prime minister for answers on the project was done to tie into plans for an elected Hull and East Riding mayor. He claimed the plan was deeply unpopular.

Coun Ross said in his letter that clarification on rail electrification was an important part of negotiations on devolution with the Government.