Hilary speaking in the House of Commons
Hilary speaking in the House of Commons

Many constituents have contacted me about the Government’s announcement on rail investment, including in Leeds and the North.

We need to invest in additional rail capacity to improve connectivity, meet the climate crisis and support economic development in the North. The Prime Minister repeatedly promised that HS2 East and Northern Powerhouse Rail would be delivered in full. He has now broken that promise. Leeds and the North have been betrayed.

The more I read of the Integrated Rail Plan, the less integrated it appears. Ministers say “the full HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail schemes as originally proposed would not enter service until the early to mid-2040s” as if this was somehow a justification for scrapping them entirely. It isn’t. This was meant to be an investment for the next 100 years or more.

While there will be a high speed line from Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway, I can find no sign of firm plans for the line between Leeds and Sheffield. So that still leaves a great big hole where HS2 East used to be. And what about Leeds station which is almost at capacity? Its expansion plans depended on HS2 arriving from the south to form a T-station which would have freed up capacity coming into Leeds west/east and east/west. Now all we’re getting is yet another study.

The Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, has made it clear that a future Labour Government will build the HS2 eastern leg to Leeds and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full.

I have long campaigned for Leeds to get a rapid transit system. We are the largest city in Europe without one. The plan talks about allocating £200m to develop proposals and start work on a West Yorkshire mass transit system, but then says that the total cost for the initial network will be £2 billion. Where is the rest of the money for this?

This was the big test of whether levelling up actually means anything. I think it’s clear that the Government has failed this test. I will however continue to campaign for Leeds and Yorkshire to get its fair share of transport investment so that we can develop a modern rail system fit for the 21st-century.

Hilary Benn MP

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