Former director of HS2 says decision to scrap eastern leg is 'quite incredible'

The man responsible for designing HS2 has called the government's decision to scrap the eastern leg of the project "quite incredible".

Professor Andrew McNaughton said that the connection of Leeds to Birmingham and London via high-speed rail had been the "core" of the plan.

He said that the section would have connected all of the modern manufacturing areas of Britain and said that the rail plan was "essential" to the economic prosperity of the country.

Last week the government announced that it would no longer build the line or the proposed high-speed rail link between Leeds, Bradford and Manchester.

The eastern-leg of the proposed HS2 route has been scrapped by the government. Credit: ITV News

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said an investment of £96 billion will help improve services in the Midlands and northern England ten years sooner than if ministers had pressed ahead with earlier plans.

Earlier today the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, called the plans a "betrayal" of levelling up.

Professor McNaughton told ITV News: "Bradford and Leeds, instead of being connected east-west across the Pennines and north-south to the Midlands and South-East are kind of left behind.

"You might say it's okay if you're in the North West or West Midlands because you are going to get some parts of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, but you will not be as strong as if you were in an economy with those powerhouse regions of the East Midlands and South and West Yorkshire."

He added that the government's plan to improve existing rail networks was overdue and necessary, but that they won't make the difference that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail would have done.

In the House of Commons today the government defended their rail plans, Transport minister Andrew Stephenson said the Government is "certainly not abandoning Transport for the North staff".

Labour MP Judith Cummins (Bradford South) said: "It was promised many times, an eastern leg of HS2, a Northern Powerhouse Rail in full with a city centre stop in Bradford. Now we hear the Government has in effect dismantled Transport for the North by removing its powers and its staff."

She said: "What we have seen is a mishmash of broken promises and silencing of its critics."

Mr Stephenson said: "We are certainly not abandoning Transport for the North staff. We thank them all for the work that they have put into developing options for Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Tupe discussions are ongoing, so we can hope those staff can join the growing number of Department for Transport staff based in the north of England.

"This Government remain committed to HS2 and remain committed to Northern Powerhouse Rail, and this plan that we set out last week explains how we would deliver the benefits to communities across the North sooner than ever expected."