Transport secretary Grant Shapps is expected to scrap the North-Eastern HS2 extension between Birmingham and Leeds in his rail investment announcement on Thursday in a move that has infuriated Tory MPs in so-called red-wall constituencies.
The North-Eastern HS2 branch would have cost GBP10bn, but would only reduce journey times by 15 minutes, as well as reducing over-crowding and expanding capacity.
HS2 was expected to create an extra 576,000 seats per day, while also freeing up space for 144 freight trains a day – enough to transport over 2.5 million more lorries’ worth of cargo per annum.
Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton in North Yorkshire, told the Daily Mail that going back on the plans suggested the Government was “not willing to put [their] money where [their] mouth is.”
Other Conservative red wall MPs were also critical as they accused PM Boris Johnson of favouring investments in the south.
Red-wall constituencies are mainly in the Midlands, North England, and North-East Wales, and historically have been Labour seats.
One red wall MP told The Telegraph: “After all the extra money that has been spent in the south on getting HS2 to Birmingham, for the north to be left out is not a good thing.”
As a mitigating attempt, Shapps is likely to unveil a GBP96bn investment package solely for northern rail projects, some of which will be used to strengthen the links between Birmingham and Leeds.
This sum will be used to enhance connectivity in the northern regions while ensuring Johnson’s ‘leveling up’ agenda is progressed further.
Johnson pledged his ‘commitment to northern powerhouse rail’ soon after entering Downing Street in 2019.
HS2 is a high-speed rail link, with three different phases, aiming to connect London to other major cities.
Phase one links London to Birmingham and is expected to be completed between 2029 and 2033 at a total cost of approximately GBP72-98bn, according to BBC News.
Phase 2a extended the London to Birmingham route to Crewe and should be completed by 2035-2040, while phase 2b planned to extend the line to Manchester and Leeds but is likely to be snubbed.