Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed the HS2 rail project will go all the way to Leeds after fears over mounting costs had prompted speculation over the full scheme going ahead.
Construction work on phase one of the high-speed rail project from London to Birmingham is ongoing.
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While phase 2a is planned to run from Birmingham to Crewe, and phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and from Birmingham to Leeds.
But after the Government-commissioned Oakervee Review warned last year that the final bill for HS2 could reach £106 billion at 2019 prices, there were concerns the so-called eastern leg of phase 2b – which would run to Leeds – could be scrapped.
This was further compounded when the National Infrastructure Commission said in December that the focus should be on regional connectivity.
Building HS2 ‘a smarter way’
Speaking at an online event for the Policy Exchange think tank on Thursday, Mr Shapps said it will be finished in full.
He said: “We are going to complete HS2 and include HS2 on the eastern leg to Leeds.
“And the only question that we have is how to better integrate that with plans which were developed a very long way since HS2 was first dreamt up all those decades ago and that pertains to the Northern Powerhouse Rail.”
He said that while it was originally thought the benefits of HS2 would come by 2040 or 2050, “we think we could bring that forward quite dramatically by building it in a smarter way”.
He said the forthcoming integrated rail plan would set out more details.
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership which represents businesses across the north, said: “The Transport Secretary and minister for the Northern Powerhouse is doing exactly the right thing in promising to deliver the eastern leg right the way to Leeds, and we now need Government to publicly commit to this in the integrated rail plan as soon as possible.
“It’s critical to ensuring levelling up is a reality not just rhetoric.”
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