'Total rubbish - I haven't broken promises to the North': Boris fires back at HS2 anger

18 November 2021, 14:23 | Updated: 18 November 2021, 17:57

Boris Johnson hit out as accusations he betrayed the North, while Sir Keir Starmer accused him of derailing Britain
Boris Johnson hit out as accusations he betrayed the North, while Sir Keir Starmer accused him of derailing Britain. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

It's "total rubbish" to suggest railway promises have been broken now the HS2 leg to Leeds has been scrapped, Boris Johnson has insisted.

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The Government confirmed on Thursday it will not expand the expensive scheme, which will slash journey times across parts of Britain, into Yorkshire.

HS2 promoters talk up their belief it would improve economies outside of London but the plans have attracted criticism for costs, delays and the fact the line needs to be built through sections of the countryside.

After the Government confirmed the decision to kill the eastern leg - connecting the Yorkshire city with a high speed route to London - Boris Johnson was accused of "betraying" Northern England.

Speaking at a Network Rail logistics hub in Selby, North Yorkshire, the Prime Minister was asked: "You've broken your promises to people here, pledges on Leeds to Manchester... You promised Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester, you are talking about speed, not capacity. Do you think the people in the North are stupid?"

Mr Johnson replied: "You are talking total rubbish, because we are doubling capacity between Manchester and Leeds. We're trebling capacity between Liverpool and Manchester.

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"And, of course, there are going to be people who, you know, always want everything at once. And there are lots of people who'll say, 'look, what we should do is carve huge new railways through virgin territory, smashing through unspoilt countryside and villages, and do it all at once'.

"The problem with that is those extra high-speed lines take decades and they don't deliver the commuter benefits that I'm talking about.”

Opposition parties have queued up to criticise Mr Johnson for the decision to scrap the eastern leg.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, visiting a station in Bradford on Thursday, said: "Yesterday the Prime Minister said he had crashed the car when it came to sleaze, today he has derailed the trains. I'm afraid with him in charge he's taking the country absolutely nowhere."

Earlier, Labour's shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said the Government had "betrayed" the north, while SNP transport spokesman Gavin Newlands said he admired transport secretary Grant Shapps' "chutzpah for the most bullish U-turn" he had seen in the House of Commons.

Mr Shapps said that the TransPennine route between Leeds and Manchester will be upgraded, and the East Coast Mainline will see its track and digital signalling improved, reducing journey times between London, Leeds, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh.