Posted 12th January 2021 | 7 Comments

Eastern leg of HS2 is ‘critical’, government told

THE West Yorkshire Combined Authority is telling the government that improving transport connections for its region is critical’ to improving ties between the nations of the United Kingdom, and that these connections include HS2 to Leeds.

The submission, to the Union Connectivity Review and its chairman Sir Peter Hendy, follows an assessment before Christmas in which the National Infrastructure Commission published its Rail Needs Assessment for the Midlands and the North.

This said ‘the packages prioritising regional links do not include the full eastern leg of HS2 Phase 2b, but instead include a mix of new lines and upgrades, which has the potential to provide improved connections from Birmingham to the East Midlands as well as being potentially cheaper and faster to deliver’, adding that ‘packages of rail investments prioritising regional links are likely to have the most potential benefits for cities in the Midlands and the North’.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority says a new line between Leeds and Manchester via central Bradford, upgrading the Trans-Pennine line and investing in the East Coast Main Line are among the projects which would help improve connections with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but it also includes the Eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds as ‘essential’, calling for investment in rail as an ’efficient, high capacity, low-carbon form of transport’.

Cllr Kim Groves, who chairs the Authority’s Transport Committee, said: ‘For West Yorkshire, better connections with the UK nations start with improved transport links in and out of the region. I hope the Union Connectivity Review will reflect that in its recommendations and that the Government will take this into account when it publishes the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands.

‘Delivering these improvements is essential to accelerating our recovery from the pandemic and addressing the social and economic disparities it has further exposed across Britain. Investment in better connections in and out of West Yorkshire is the path to improved links to the rest of the UK and Europe with all the opportunities that brings.

‘To tackle the climate emergency, unlock economic growth and to level-up we need long-term whole-network planning and the delivery of promised rail investment.’

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee will discuss the submission at its meeting on Friday.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Tim M, Gloucestershire

    Much as I have always supported HS2, I believe that the most honest course for the government now is to pause all HS2 elements not so far authorised for construction until 'new normal' is understood.

    The global pandemic has triggered a new set of 'known unknowns' not only for rail but also for transport generally. In many cases, Covid has merely accelerated trends that started a few years ago such as remote working/ conferencing. Of all rail's market segments, intercity business travel will surely take the biggest permanent hit, with long-distance commuting probably in second place. There might even be some 'unknown unknowns' too.

    This is not to say that the pandemic has necessarily holed the entire HS2 business case below the waterline, rather that there must now be a pause (for two or three years perhaps) to give time for government and other stakeholders to understand what 'new normal' is starting to look like. Then fresh assumptions can be made to revise the business case based on the emerging evidence, not on over-optimistic or simply made-up forecasts.

    No PM or Transport Secretary wants to go down in history as the man who cancelled such a project, but given the mega-billions of borrowed money at stake no reasonable person could quibble with postponement while seeing how and where the pandemic dust settles.

  • Melvyn, Canvey Island , Essex

    The original Y network was announced over a decade ago long before Northern Powerhouse Rail and was seen as a way of connecting the MML and ECML to HS2 enabling passenger on MML and on ECML to benefit from time savings from using HS2.

    The reality is that HS2 has always been a WCML2 with a partial MML2 and ECML2 added on .

    We are now in a different situation with the development of NPR or High Speed North which will upgrade Cross Pennine services and is being integrated into HS2 project.

    As for HS2 legislation and construction of stage 1 London to West Midlands is underway while legislation to extend this to Crewe is close to Royal Assent.

    The fuss over the Y has arisen because of a decision to proceed with legislation that only extends HS2 from Crewe to Manchester with incorporation of a section of NPR to Liverpool this being seen as less complicated than full stage 2 in a single piece of legislation!

    We also now have new trains capable of 140 mph running on ECML so if ECML is upgraded the time saved getting to Leeds will be not much different than via HS2 and eastern leg !

  • Andrew Gwilt, Benfleet Essex

    I totally agree. I do think that Leeds really needs HS2 so it can have a Eastern leg high speed railway line that will make journeys lot more easier and faster to travel into London. Than using LNER, Grand Central and East Midlands Railway.

  • Geoff, London

    Continuing the question of the Y network earlier. The barriers to quadrupling the ECML north of Welwyn to Knebworth are formidable, but perhaps the merits of this as an alternative to the eastern leg of the Y network could justify the cost ?

  • Barbara Cooper, Bucks

    HS2 is the last thing needed to help the country get back on its feet after the pandemic. It is obvious that rail travel wont be the same again and no way does a train create business or make money, quite the opposite. Local travel ,particularly in the north ,east to west is what is needed . People want to work where they live. We do have a rail service that goes long distance. So HS2 would take less time but does it warrant spending £170 billion when fast broadband and commuter trains which are used twice a day at the same daily time is what is needed not a train that only stops at major cities. The construction companies are milking this project for all its worth.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    The cost of HS2 first leg will probably determine the rest. Looking at Crossrail, it would be surprising if HS2 wasn't grossly late and grossly over-budget.

  • Geoff, London

    A Y network to London is not the best of ideas. There used to be a Y network in the form of a line from Bedford to Hitchin connecting on to what is the ECML. A new line was built to London with a new station in London i.e. St Pancras forming what is now the MML. Perhaps it would help to upgrade the ECML to four tracks north of Welwyn to Knebworth.*
    [*It certainly would. But this section has remained double track because of Digswell Viaduct and Welwyn North tunnels, which are both formidable barriers to quadrupling.--Ed.]