Ministers scale back HS2 in northern cities after COP26 summit

HS2 archaeologists make rare discovery in Buckinghamshire

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The high-speed line between Birmingham and Leeds was put on hold last year after the Government said more work on plans was needed. Whitehall insiders insist the eastern leg is not being ditched. Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison said: “If, as feared, the Government scales back the eastern leg the potential negative impact to the North would be huge.

“Without more capacity at Leeds station and a new HS2 line to Clayton Junction [near Doncaster], there is no way to deliver the vital more frequent and reliable services down to Sheffield promised as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“Building from the North down to Birmingham, alongside the delivery of a new line across the Pennines, is the best way to ensure we level up.

“Cancelling HS2 would level down the North and the Midlands.”

Tory MP Ben Bradley said the plan is unlikely to be “exactly as it was before” but is “optimistic” about the final result.

Critics say HS2’s spiralling costs, expected to hit £106billion, cannot be justified and should be spent improving regional transport links.

Phase One between London and Birmingham was due to launch in 2026, but full services are now set to start between 2031 and 2036.

A second stage connecting the West Midlands to Manchester is expected to be ready between 2035 and 2040.

The National Infrastructure Commission last year proposed new eastern leg options, including ending it at East Midlands Parkway station, Notts, not Leeds.

The Integrated Rail Plan is set to be published in weeks.

Changes could include scrapping a high-speed hub in Toton, Notts, with around 80 miles of high-speed track laid from Birmingham before trains join an upgraded Midland main line.

Trains would run at slower speeds for most of the journey to Leeds.

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said changes would call the “promise to level up into serious question”.

Labour transport spokesman Jim McMahon said people in the North and Midlands “will feel betrayed” if the link is not delivered in full.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has always insisted the Government will “complete HS2 and include HS2 on the eastern leg to Leeds”.

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