An extension of the HS2 network to Leeds from Birmingham has been axed, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed today.
Plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail link across the Pennines have been also downgraded with certain sections to be upgraded rather than a complete rebuild. Shapps told MPs.
Instead, the government is proposing GBP96bn of investment, which Shapps said would mean faster rail journeys at a lower cost than the original HS2 plan.
HS2 was a key plank of Boris Johnson’s ‘levelling-up’ strategy designed to bring investment and jobs to the north and would have connected London with Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds through a super-fast rail link.
After today’s announcement, the north-eastern leg will only go as far as Nottingham.
As an alternative, three high-speed lines will be built between Crewe to Manchester, Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway and Warrington to Manchester.
Shapps says work on the new lines will start by Christmas with communities in the north and midlands to benefit much earlier than they would have done under the original HS2 plans.
The changes would mean a “better railway, provide similar or better services to almost every destination and improve the ‘outdated vision’ drawn up for HS2 a decade ago,” he said.
“This plan will bring the North and the Midlands closer together, it will fire up economies to rival London and the South East, it will rebalance our economic geography, it will spread opportunity, it will level up the country, it will bring benefits at least a decade or more earlier.”
Labour shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon slammed the new proposals, saying most of the GBP96bn was not new money and the north has been completely ‘sold out’.