Boris Johnson slammed after confirming HS2 will not be built in full

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  • Boris Johnson
    Boris Johnson
    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019
Workers in an HS2 tunnel in Rickmansworth. Labour has accused the Government of betraying the north over rail (PA) (PA Wire)
Workers in an HS2 tunnel in Rickmansworth. Labour has accused the Government of betraying the north over rail (PA) (PA Wire)

The Government unveiled a £96billion rail package for the north of England on Thursday, but the Prime Minister faced criticism over the watered down plans.

Boris Johnson confirmed HS2, which was originally meant to connect London with the centres of Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, would not be built in full.

The eastern leg to Leeds has been dropped from the Integrated Rail Plan, published on Thursday morning.

Instead a “new study” will be ordered to determine the best way to eventually link the city to the network and a shorter high-speed route will be created from Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps described the plan as an "ambitious and unparalleled programme" to overhaul links across the north and Midlands.

He told the Commons: "This new blueprint delivers three high-speed lines. First, that's Crewe to Manchester. Second, Birmingham to the East Midlands with HS2 trains continuing to central Nottingham and central Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield on an upgraded mainline.

“And third, a brand new high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester and to the western border of Yorkshire - slashing journey times across the north."

But he was met with laughter from the Labour benches when he referenced services on the "western border" of Yorkshire.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon described the integrated rail plan announcement as a “great train robbery”.

The Oldham West and Royton MP said the Prime Minister had broken a promise on HS2 made “60 times”.

“Boris Johnson was elected to level the playing fields, to make things better for households across the country,” he said.

“We were promised a Northern Powerhouse, we were promised a Midlands Engine, to be levelled up. But what we have been given today is a great train robbery.”

Lord O'Neill, former Conservative minister and vice chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said it was a "strange political and economic calculation" to upset constituents in the redwall seats the party won at the last election.

"It would only save less than £4billion," he told Times Radio.

"So, 10 per cent saving to disappoint millions of people around the north and, crucially, people in redwall seats and their MPs.

He added the most northern areas of the country were being left out and "it doesn't make a huge amount of sense".

The plan will see:

•HS2 East run from central Nottingham to London in 57 minutes and London to Sheffield in 1 hour 27 minutes.

•HS2 West run from London to Manchester in one hour 11 minutes and from Birmingham to Manchester in 41 to 51 minutes

•The Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will reduce the Leeds to Manchester route from 50 to 33 minutes

Mr Johnson said: “My mission is to level up opportunity across our country, which is why we’re making train journeys faster and more reliable through the biggest ever public investment in our rail network.

“Levelling up has to be for everyone, not just the biggest cities. That’s why we will transform transport links between our biggest cities and smaller towns, ensuring we improve both long-distance and vital local services and enabling people to move more freely across the country wherever they are.”

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