HS2: Northern newspapers unite to urge government to honour rail promises

Northern papers unite to urge the government to deliver their transport promises. Credit: Manchester Evening News/The Chronicle/The Gazette/The Huddersfield Daily Examiner

Newspapers in the north of England have come together to urge the government to deliver on long-awaited railway spending plans.

The Prime Minister is facing a backlash amid reports he's set to scrap the eastern leg of the already over budget HS2 rail project between Birmingham and Leeds.

The full railway measures will be announced when the government publishes its Integrated Rail Plan on Thursday.

The Department for Transport will argue that HS2 trains will still serve Leeds, but on the mainline rather than HS2 tracks - saving tens of billions of pounds.

It will insist that its plan to invest £96 billion on the existing network will deliver benefits faster and more cost-effectively.

The Manchester Evening News was joined in the campaign by five other newspapers: The Gazette in Teesside, The Journal and The Chronicle in Newcastle, the Huddersfield Examiner and the Hull Daily Mail.

On its website, the Manchester Evening News said: "Enough’s enough. The Prime Minister has been prepared to use chronic central government neglect of Northern England to his political advantage. It is time to keep his side of the bargain.

"Where rail investment is concerned, that does not mean a smattering of piecemeal upgrades dressed up as a transport revolution, ready for deployment on leaflets at the next election.

"It means new inter-city lines to and across the North, a move supported both by Northern leaders and the Conservative manifesto."

HS2 is set to cost more than £90bn. Credit: PA

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon accused ministers of attempting to “quietly back out” of infrastructure schemes that they had “committed to dozens of times”.

Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, said: “This is Boris pulling the whole damn rug from under our feet and ripping up the floor behind him.”

The alleged decision comes despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledging his “commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail” shortly after entering Downing Street in 2019.

As recently as the Conservative Party conference in Manchester last month, Mr Johnson said in his leader’s speech that the government “will do Northern Powerhouse Rail, we will link up the cities of the Midlands and the North”.

Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, who represents Thirsk and Malton in North Yorkshire, told the i newspaper the trimmed back plans indicated the government was “not willing to put our money where our mouth is”.

Neil Derrick, regional secretary for Yorkshire and north Derbyshire for the GMB union, said: “Voters will rightly be left scratching their heads if Yorkshire politicians like Rishi Sunak talk a big talk on levelling up the North but fail to deliver when push comes to shove.

“Our members want to see investment in skills, infrastructure and education.

“If reports are to be believed the Conservatives have failed to deliver. No amount of spin or rebranding will convince many voters otherwise.”