The Chamber has questioned the Government’s decision to halt work on the Eastern leg of the HS2 rail scheme, saying it is back-tracking on its ‘levelling up’ agenda and its commitment to the North.
The section of the North-South scheme to Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds has been ‘shelved’ amid concerns about soaring costs, with all focus being directed towards the Western route to Manchester. It’s unlikely, though, that the Eastern leg is formally cancelled due to fears of a political backlash.
However, some observers say the project may now be left to ‘wither on the vine’. The move would help save the Department for Transport (DfT) billions at a time when it is under pressure to save money.
Mark Goldstone, Head of Policy & Representation at West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: ”It’s time for the Prime Minister to be honest with communities and businesses across the North about what his intentions for levelling up actually mean. HS2 is a key component of wider infrastructure plans.”
Recently, the Chamber sent a joint letter with Greater Manchester Chamber urging the Government to back major transport schemes affecting the North as a commitment to its ‘levelling up’ agenda.
The letter, co-signed by Chamber Chief Executive Sandy Needham, read: “Confusion over the scale of this Government’s commitment to levelling up the North is an unnecessary hindrance as we move towards full economic recovery. The ongoing delay to the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan is a cause of concern for Northern leaders with many expecting a scaling back of commitments to investment in the wake of Covid.”
“Rather than seeing the north as a problem to be solved we need Government to recognise the scale of opportunity which exists if we can unleash the full potential of firms and communities. Levelling up means 21st century infrastructure efficiently connecting people with jobs and businesses with customers.”
Leeds City Council’s Labour leader, James Lewis, and his counterpart on Nottinghamshire County Council, have also written a joint letter calling for an immediate commitment to the Eastern leg.
The DfT last night insisted that the Eastern leg could still go ahead as part of the Integrated Rail Plan which was due in the spring but has been delayed until the autumn.