By James Moules
POLITICAL parties in the North of England have criticised the government’s decision to scrap the high speed rail branch to Leeds as a failure to level up the region.
On November 18, 2021, the government confirmed that development the eastern leg of the contentious high speed rail project connecting Birmingham and Leeds would not go ahead.
The first phase of HS2 connecting London and Birmingham is set to open between 2029 and 2033 – with a second phase stretching to Manchester in the north west expected later.
But the decision to scrap the eastern leg towards Leeds, Yorkshire, has been met with derision by regional interest parties.
Yorkshire Party Leader, Bob Buxton, said: “Cancelling the highest-budget projects in Yorkshire is not levelling-up, it’s downgrading and degrading.
“Yorkshire’s prosperity will be damaged for decades to come.”
The Northern Independence Party, which campaigns for the north of England to secede from the UK, also believes that the current HS2 plans are insufficient for the needs of northerners.
Jamie Blair, National Communications officer for the Northern Independence Party, said: “The new plans are a tiny fragment of what was pledged, and don’t address the needs of Northerners.
“We don’t just need faster trains, we need more of them, going more frequently and connecting the entire North.”
Blair also decried the treatment of communities affected by the construction of HS2, such as those at Shimmer Estate in Mexborough whose homes had been earmarked for demolition to make way for the route.
“That area has been treated so badly by the government and as a result has been struggling for the past five years – and now it was all for nothing.”
Bob Buxton added: “The Yorkshire Party supports increased rail capacity and speed but has been wary of the project management of HS2 for years.
“As well as failing to consider communities along the routes, we correctly predicted that its budget would continue to spiral out of control and that Yorkshire’s interests would be sacrificed to make ends meet.”
However, a Department for Transport spokesperson defended the government’s plans for HS2.
They said: “We’re spending £96bn – the biggest ever such investment – to boost our rail network and level up the entire country.
“The majority of this spend will be focussed on bringing opportunity and prosperity to the Midlands and the North of England, a decade quicker than previous plans and at better value for the taxpayer.”
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