HS2: Rail industry blasts decision to scrap Leeds leg
One expert said suggestions faster trains can run on the existing network whilst increasing capacity is 'a blatant lie'
The decision to scrap the extension of HS2 to Leeds sparked outrage from the rail industry.
Experts accused the Government of misleading voters after it claimed there would still be widespread benefits to passengers.
Nigel Harris, managing editor of RAIL magazine, described the decision to stop HS2’s eastern leg in the East Midlands as “catastrophic” as it means fast trains will not be segregated from stopping services, resulting in capacity increases being lost.
He told the PA news agency that putting long-distance trains on existing lines will result in less room for local trains.
“What the Government has sold today is a total lie,” Mr Harris claimed.
He said he would be “amazed” if journey time reductions mentioned in the Department for Transport’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) are achieved.
Mr Harris also accused the Government of creating an “east-west divide to go with a north-south divide”.
He said: “West of the Pennines is going to benefit from all the advantages of High Speed 2, but the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East have been told ‘sorry, you’re not having that’.
“What those regions have been told by the Government is ‘sorry, you aren’t worth investing in’.
Railway engineer and writer Gareth Dennis accused the Government of “being dishonest with people”.
He said: “The suggestion that they can run faster trains on the existing network whilst increasing capacity on the existing network is just not true.
“It’s a blatant lie. I don’t know how they’ve got away with it.”
Mr Dennis said the HS2 decision is “really damaging” and represents “a step back to where we were in the rail industry in the early 2000s”.
He also claimed upgrades to the Midlands Main Line and Transpennine routes which form a key part of the IRP have been “planned for years”.
He said: “None of what they’re announcing is new stuff. This is the joke of the whole thing.
“They’ve cancelled all the new stuff – with a couple of little shreds left on the table – and all these grand announcements about upgrades on the existing lines, they’re just announcing things that have been part of the upgrade plan for the network for years.
“It’s a cruel joke.”
Andy Bagnall, director general of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said millions of people will benefit from the investment that is being made, but accused the Government of “leaving out key pieces of the jigsaw”.
He warned that this will “inevitably hold back the ability for the railways to power the levelling up agenda and the drive to net zero”.
Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, which represents the rail supply sector, welcomed “the end of the uncertainty” but described the IRP as “a piecemeal approach to national strategic railway infrastructure development”.
He continued: “How certain can the railway industry be that the IRP will actually be delivered, given what’s happened to the previous plan?”