City to be offered consolation prize as HS2 is set for sidings

As the North awaits the much anticipated and delayed publishing of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), reports over the weekend suggest the eastern leg of HS2 aka Phase 2B, is not to be.

It’s been reported that ministers will be scraping the eastern leg of the often controversial high speed rail link connecting Birmingham to Leeds, with The Times noting that Leeds will instead be offered its own tram network as a consolation prize.

A tram connection in Leeds was first considered before the turn of the Millennium with the Leeds Supertram receiving provisional government approval in 2001. However similar to the case with HS2 rising costs of the Supertram plans led to it being mothballed.

The IRP which was originally scheduled to be published at the end of 2020 will also confirm the future of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) a piece of transport infrastructure which has been labelled critical by political leaders on both sides of the Pennines which would increase connectivity between Leeds and Manchester via a new station in Bradford – a city recently recognised as the worst connected in the country.

It is expected that the rising costs of HS2 will see it sent to the sidings indefinitely as the future of NPR remains unclear, although Sky News noted Ministers may decide to delay the new rail connection and instead focus on upgrading existing lines.

However, it has also been suggested that new stations in Leeds and Bradford will be approved, marking a small victory for the latter although how this will tie into improved connectivity we will have to wait and see.

It has been suggested that the indefinite pause of HS2 will mean the line will now link with the existing East Coast mainline to Leeds rather than having a completely new high speed line to the city, with ministers keen to support the contingent of Conservative MPs who were elected for the first time in the North in 2019.

Government sources told the Mail on Sunday that the new plans “will ensure that we have a truly integrated transport network. Journey times will be similar to or faster than the original HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail plans, and the trains will start running ten years sooner.

“Under the previous plans, HS2 and Northern Powerhouse would not have reached the East Midlands, Manchester, Yorkshire, and the North East until the 2040s.

“While the plan will help some of our largest cities, it will also strengthen ties between smaller towns.”

The Department for Transport however refused to comment on speculation but noted that it will publish the Integrated Rail Plan “shortly”.