Rail rage of the North: Red Wall Tories ‘are incandescent’ as HS3 across Pennines and the HS2 extension to Leeds face the axe
- Ministers faced a furious backlash in the North yesterday over plans to axe two high-speed rail projects
- Government set to confirm tomorrow that it is ditching the HS3 line across the Pennines linking Manchester and Leeds
- The move comes after Boris Johnson told MPs last year: ‘Both are needed and both will be built’
Ministers faced a furious backlash in the North yesterday over plans to axe two high-speed rail projects.
The Government is set to confirm tomorrow that it is ditching the HS3 line across the Pennines linking Manchester and Leeds – part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail project.
The eastern leg of HS2 linking Birmingham to Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds is also expected to be axed. The move comes after Boris Johnson told MPs last year: ‘Both are needed and both will be built.’
But ministers are instead expected to focus on a series of upgrades to existing tracks – some dating from the Victorian era – arguing they will produce benefits far more quickly and cheaply.
The Government is set to confirm tomorrow that it is ditching the HS3 line across the Pennines linking Manchester and LeedsBoris Johnson told MPs last year: ‘Both are needed and both will be built’
A backlash among Red Wall Tory MPs and provincial mayors escalated after six regional newspapers published the same front page calling on ministers to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 pledges in full.
It featured a mock-up of Mr Johnson and other ministers based on the hit 1996 film Trainspotting. Echoing Ewan McGregor’s famous ‘Choose life’ monologue in the movie, it said: ‘Choose the North. Choose jobs. Choose to finally keep your rail promises. Choose new train links, shorter journey times and fewer cars on the roads. Choose Northern Powerhouse Rail. Choose HS2 in full.’ The front page appeared in papers in Manchester, Yorkshire, Newcastle and Teesside.
Red Wall Tories and other northern MPs were said to be ‘incandescent’ over the U-turn.
One ex-Tory minister based in the North told the Mail: ‘Colleagues are absolutely furious because it looks like we are being short-changed yet again.
‘It’s gone from the PM saying he wanted to build a Crossrail for the North to a few upgrades of existing lines, most of which have been announced three times before. It’s a crock of s***’. West Yorkshire’s Labour mayor Tracy Brabin said: ‘It’s a complete betrayal of the North and the promise to level up.
‘MPs of all stripes are incandescent. Behind the scenes the new intake of Conservative MPs is very nervous and angry.’
Greater Manchester’s Labour mayor Andy Burnham tweeted: ‘No expense spared for the South. No money left for the North. This isn’t “levelling up”. This is the same old story.’
Officials had warned the need to drill a tunnel under the Pennines would cost up to £40billion. It was also feared the bill for HS2’s ‘eastern leg’ could hit a similar figure.
The PM’s spokesman said yesterday: ‘We are fully committed to strengthening the rail links in our cities, across the Midlands and the North.’ He said Mr Johnson ‘recognises the importance of improving journey times across the country.’
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