Boris Johnson faces Red Wall backlash over HS2 plans

Boris Johnson faces Red Wall backlash over scrapping HS2 extension from Birmingham to Leeds as MPs accuse the PM of prioritising investment in the south of England

  • Grant Shapps will make a major rail investment announcement on Thursday
  • But the Transport Secretary is widely expected to axe the eastern ‘spur’ of HS2
  • Prospect of ditching link between Birmingham and Leeds sparked a backlash 

Boris Johnson is facing a backlash from Tory Red Wall MPs over the Government’s plans to axe the High Speed 2 rail link between Birmingham and Leeds.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is due to make a rail investment announcement on Thursday but it is widely expected he will ditch the proposed eastern branch of HS2.

Mr Shapps will instead unveil new funding for a raft of regional northern rail projects to boost connectivity in a bid to deliver on the Prime Minister’s so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda. 

But the move risks a rebellion from some Tory MPs whose constituencies would benefit from the faster rail link. 

The Government is expected to axe its plans for the eastern branch of HS2 which would link Birmingham and Leeds. The link from Birmingham to Manchester is expected to go ahead 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to set out the results of his integrated rail plan this week

Mr Shapps will reportedly set out the results of his integrated rail plan this week. 

The Transport Secretary is expected to set out a £96billion investment package for northern rail projects in an attempt to assuage Tory anger over scrapping the HS2 link between Birmingham and Leeds.   

Some of that cash will be spent on improving existing rail links between Birmingham and Leeds.

But many MPs are adamant the eastern branch of the line, designed to match an HS2 link between Birmingham and Manchester, must go ahead. 

One Red Wall MP told The Telegraph: ‘After all the extra money that has been spent in the South on getting HS2 to Birmingham, for the North to be left out is not a good thing.’

Jake Berry, the former Northern Powerhouse minister and now the chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, has said: ‘It’s the crucial link for many Red Wall seats and our capital city, and is seen by many as central to the Government’s ‘levelling up’ programme.’

Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, who represents Thirsk and Malton in North Yorkshire, told the i newspaper that trimming back the plans suggested the Government was ‘not willing to put our money where our mouth is’. 

Supporters of the eastern branch of HS2 say it would reduce journey times, boost capacity and reduce overcrowding. 

Supporters of the eastern branch of HS2 say it would reduce journey times, boost capacity and reduce overcrowding. HS2 tunnels are pictured at Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

Boris Johnson pledged his ‘commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail’ shortly after entering Downing Street in 2019

However, there are concerns in Whitehall over how cost effective the project would be as it would reduce journey times by 15 minutes but at a cost of an extra £10billion.        

Labour has slammed the expected decision to scrap the eastern branch of the line. 

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said ministers were attempting to ‘quietly back out’ of infrastructure schemes that they had ‘committed to dozens of times’.

Mr Johnson pledged his ‘commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail’ shortly after entering Downing Street in 2019.  

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: ‘Work is continuing on the integrated rail plan. We will publish it shortly and do not comment on speculation.’

Source: Read Full Article