HS2 Manchester - Leeds line scrapped: A rail betrayal or a transport revolution?

Video report by Sarah Rogers

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused of a "betrayal" after it was announced on Thursday that the eastern leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line was being scrapped and the Northern Powerhouse Rail link from Manchester to Leeds downgraded.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps denied the Government has reneged on promises to upgrade links for the North and Midlands in its scaled-back rail plan for the region.

Mr Shapps said: "They are absolutely being fulfilled. We are producing that around 30-minute journey from Manchester to Leeds," he told Sky News.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer doesn't agree, while speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live he said the plans were a "second class option".

"The Government has ripped up those promises and betrayed people in the North."

Transport secretary Grant Shapps

Well before the Transport Secretary got to his feet in the Commons to reveal the government's Integrated Rail Plan there were "a lot of worried people across the north of England, said Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

And what Grant Shapps announced seemed to do little to allay those concerns.

Mr Shapps described the plan as an "ambitious and unparalleled programme" to overhaul inter-city links across the north and Midlands, and "speed up the benefits for local areas and serves destinations people most want to reach".

But it means the eastern leg of HS2 will be scrapped and the plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail will be dramatically watered down.

The key points are:

  • The extension of HS2 from the East Midlands to Leeds has been scrapped. HS2 trains will instead run on existing lines.

  • NPR between Leeds and Manchester will be a combination of new track and enhancements to existing infrastructure.

  • Plans to fully electrify the Midland Main Line and the Transpennine route, and upgrade the East Coast Main Line.

How journey times will differ for North West:

  • Leeds - Manchester

Current journey time: 55 mins

Time if earlier plans went ahead: 25 minutes - New promised time: 33 mins

  • Liverpool - Manchester

Current journey time: 50 mins

Time if earlier plans went ahead: 26 minutes

New promised time: 35 minutes

Labour's shadow transport secretary described the integrated rail plan announcement as a "great train robbery".

Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon added that the Government had "betrayed" the North.

Mr Shapps said: "This is a landmark plan. By far the biggest of any network improvement and focused on the north and midlands.

"With more seats, more frequent services, shorter journeys, it meets the needs of today's passengers and future generations, and we're getting started immediately."

Liverpool City Region's mayor Steve Rotheram said the North was having to settle for "scraps off the table".

The Labour mayor told a press conference: "What message does it send to the millions across the Red Wall who lent the Prime Minister their votes in 2019? Perhaps we'll find out soon.

"It's the same old story, again and again. If the North had received the same per capita funding as London over the last decade, we'd have had £86 billion more.

"Once again, they have asked us to settle for scraps off the table, a cheap and nasty solution to a problem facing nearly 15 million people across the North, and that's just not on." 

Lucy Meacock spoke to the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham:

Our reporter Andrew Fletcher became a rail commuter for a day, using only public transport on a journey between ITV's HQ in Salford and Leeds:

Cllr Louise Gittins, Interim Chair of Transport for the North, said the announcement was "woefully inadequate."

"Leaders from across the North and from across the party political divide came together to ask for a network that would upgrade the North for this century and in line with the rest of the country.

Louise Gittins Credit: Transport for the North

"Our statutory advice asked for an over £40 billion network but the Government has decided to provide even less than half of that.