Doubts raised over government's commitment to HS2

The government is set to make an announcement to parliament on a new high speed rail line tomorrow which will fall short of committing to extend it as far as Leeds and Sheffield.

 

The HS2 project, first proposed by the last Labour government, would see a high speed line built to link London to Birmingham with the line then splitting in two to extend to Manchester in the North West and Leeds and Sheffield in Yorkshire.

 

The section of the line between London and Birmingham has met with local opposition in the Chiltern Hills area by local campaigners which has left Tory ministers dithering on the project for months.

 

Now it seems Transport Secretary Justine Greening will give the project the go ahead, but will only put forward legislation to build the line as far as Birmingham initially. This failure to put a full proposal to parliament to complete the routes to Manchester and Yorkshire is leading to questions over the government's commitment to the project.

 

Maria Eagle MP, Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary, in advance of the expected statement to Parliament on HS2, said: 

 

"The Tory-led Government's refusal to seek parliamentary approval to build the entire high speed rail line between London, Manchester and Leeds raises real doubts about their commitment to enabling the north of England to benefit from less overcrowding and shorter journey times.

 

"Unless they agree to our proposal to legislate for the entire route in one piece of legislation then any commitment to build the whole route will be seen as an empty promise. At the very least they should accept the Transport Select Committee’s proposal to include a clear commitment to the second phase on the face of the initial bill."

 

Giving Labour's backing to the project she said:

 

"This is an important milestone in the delivery of the high speed rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds first proposed by Labour in government. As the latest comprehensive analysis of the alternatives has demonstrated, this is clearly the best way to address the worsening capacity issues on our main rail lines while cutting journey times between our cities. HS2 will now be taken forward on a cross party basis to give it the certainty a major project of this kind needs.

 

In responding to the Government’s expected approval for the scheme, Maria Eagle MP will also call on assurances over the cost of using the new high speed line:

 
"It's now time to move the debate on from the affordability of building the line to the affordability of using it once it opens. We need a high speed network that is affordable for the many not the few, not a 'rich man's toy' as it was described by the previous Transport Secretary. As passengers using HS1 know to their cost, there is a clear premium for using the high speed service and we need a proper debate about the kind of high speed network we want to see in this country.

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