Shapps suggests HS2 eastern leg could be dropped


Transport secretary Grant Shapps has suggested there will be changes to the £100bn HS2 plans, with the eastern leg to Leeds likely to dropped or severely delayed.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Shapps said ministers could no longer 'blindly follow' the original blueprint, which dates back to the last Labour government.

The Department for Transport has previously confirmed that HS2 Ltd has been told to suspend work on the eastern leg plans - apparently, no one has been working on that section of the scheme since February 2020.

Reports suggest the Government will prioritise Northern Powerhouse Rail instead - an east-west rail scheme between Leeds and Manchester also called HS3.

Mr Shapps told the Financial Times: 'Midlands Rail Hub and Northern Powerhouse Rail are things, they’ve been invented, they hadn’t been when HS2 was first designed...We need to work these things together. Are we doing things in the best way and in the right order?'

He added that the Government had to 'go back and ask further questions' after the National Infrastructure Commission, a government advisory body, last year proposed delays to the Leeds leg of HS2 in favour of rail links between cities in the North and Midlands.

'We want to make sure we get trains to Leeds in a way that actually benefits people on the network and not blindly follow some plan invented 15 to 20 years ago which no longer benefits people,' Mr Shapps said.

The HS2 line would have linked London with Birmingham before splitting into two. The western leg to Manchester is still expected to be built, but the eastern section to Leeds could be axed to save around £40bn.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to argue that Northern Powerhouse Rail is a quicker way of getting fast trains to Leeds, via Manchester, than HS2, which is not due for completion until 2040.

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