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LEEDS: West Yorkshire leaders to challenge Government rail plan

LEEDS: West Yorkshire leaders to challenge Government rail plan

The eastern leg of HS2 would have been a brand new line linking Birmingham with Leeds, via Sheffield

Plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail “effectively no longer exist”, according to a report by regional civil servants.

The line, which was first proposed in 2016 and endorsed by successive government ministers, would have seen a new high speed rail line run from Hull to Liverpool, with stops at Leeds, Bradford and Manchester.

The government’s Integrated Rail Plan, released last month, announced the scrapping of Phase 2b (Birmingham to Leeds) line of HS2, and also downgraded the Northern Powerhouse Rail project mainly to improvements on existing east-west lines.

A report set to go before West Yorkshire Combined Authority members next week pointed out that the new plans do not include giving Bradford a link to the main rail network, which many saw as the whole point of NPR.

It also pointed out that government officials say the £200m announced for a West Yorkshire mass transit system was simply two lots of money that had already been announced.

West Yorkshire’s leaders how look set to challenge the outcome of the plan, following claims from northern mayors that the new proposals breach commitments previously made by Government.

As part of the IRP, the Government plans to improve the existing transpennine line also only create a new line running from Manchester to Marsden – a town on the western edge of Yorkshire, and that this would need to be connected to the existing transpennine line to Leeds.

The report, set to go before a full WYCA meeting next week, added: “There is no commitment to the requisite capacity investment at Leeds to facilitate this, nor is there a commitment to NPR services to Hull or beyond York, or Leeds to Sheffield. There is no new connection to Bradford. Sheffield to Manchester appears to be omitted.

“The project as proposed by TfN essentially no longer exists in the IRP – with Bradford omitted from the NPR network and no new line connecting it to Manchester and Leeds.”

It also stated that, of the £200m announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps for a West Yorkshire Mass Transit system, £100m had already been announced as part of another transport fund, while the remaining £100m was set to go towards a study into how to link HS2 trains to Leeds station.

WYCA officers also have serious concerns about how the changes will impact on Leeds Station, which already has capacity issues.

“Although it is widely recognised that the lack of resilience at Leeds station has significant implications for the wider regional and national rail network, there is no firm commitment to tackle the capacity issue at Leeds.

“Instead, there is commitment to fund quick win upgrades and to undertake a study to understand the most optimal solution for Leeds station capacity – in light of post COVID-19 demand and the first phase of the West Yorkshire Mass Transit System.”

It went on to suggest the combined authority challenges the outcome of the IRP, adding: “This may require further West Yorkshire work to understand the comparable costings between the Transport for the North and local proposals and the Integrated Rail Plan, especially in relation to Northern Powerhous Rail, and Leeds-Bradford options. Work is also needed to consider the wider implications and economic and social impacts of the Integrated Rail Plan.”

The meeting will take place on Thursday, December 9

Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter


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