Northern Tory MPs with constituencies in the so-called Red Wall, where voters helped Mr Johnson secure a thumping majority in the 2019 general election, have expressed outrage as speculation mounts over the Government abandoning the Birmingham to Leeds section of the route. Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake told the i newspaper: “Unless the Government can find another way to halve journey times and increase capacity between Bradford, Leeds and Manchester and other key northern towns and cities, it’s a very significant missed economic opportunity for local residents, businesses and UK plc.”
A Red Waller told the FT: “Losing part of the eastern leg of High Speed 2 is very disappointing. It would be transformative for capacity in the north so it’s absolutely fundamental to get a new Manchester to Leeds railway.”
The Department for Transport is expected to announce new plans for the project on November 18 as part of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan which will consider the development of HS2 north of Birmingham, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Rail Hub.
Commentator David Buik told GB News today that the Government was taking a huge gamble.
He said: “The country in that part of the Midlands is very divided on the question of this update on HS2. When you look at the cost, it’s eye-watering at £96billion. When you consider the country has already borrowed £2.2trillion in order to get its economy back on its feet and keep public services going this is a really, seriously expensive addage. Is it value?
“The Government is suggesting it’s going to break a pledge that it gave to the Red Wall where it got its majority of 80 from. All kinds of constituencies in the north that in a normal year they would never have won in a month of Sundays. The Government has taken a huge gamble because it relied on these constituencies. But there is this cost.”
He speculated that the Government had looked at the plans and decided the Birmingham to Leeds leg was politically the least dangerous to cut.
His comments come after one senior Tory claimed ministers “never had a plan for levelling up”, adding: “Now they’ve cancelled half of HS2, a project that’s enjoyed cross-party support over a decade and over four PMs.”
Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, urged Mr Johnson to deliver on promises to deliver in full HS2’s eastern leg along with Northern Powerhouse Rail and upgrading the TransPennine route.
READ MORE ON PRITI PATEL CANCELLING A MIGRANT CRISIS TRIP TO PARIS
Not long after entering Downing Street in 2019, the Prime Minister pledged his commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail, which aims to boost the North’s economy through more efficient and effective rail connections.
At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, he said in his leader’s speech that the Government “will do Northern Powerhouse Rail, we will link up the cities of the Midlands and the North”.
In an open letter, Ms Brabin said: “The Government has a choice to make. It can choose to unlock the potential of the North, or it can let us down once again, limiting your levelling up ambitions, before you’ve had a chance to finalise the Levelling Up White Paper.”
Leader of Leeds City Council, James Lewis, told the BBC: “We believe that anything less than a commitment to the eastern leg of HS2 as part of an integrated network with Northern Powerhouse Rail in full would undermine any pledge to ‘level up’ our regions – at a time when we need it most.”
Dog-bitten migrants left as ‘prisoners’ on EU’s external frontier [REPORT]
Diabetes: Two signs when you go to the toilet [REVEALED]
Prince Harry helps launch new report to tackle ‘disinformation crisis’ [LATEST]
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “We are committed to transforming rail connections across the Midlands and the North with shorter journey times and an accelerated timetable for delivery that allows us to bring in real benefits to communities as soon as possible.
“This will be a significant investment of taxpayers’ money and it will take some time to deliver.
“What we want to do is make sure that it is delivered as fast as possible so that people see real tangible improvements to their journey times.”
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said work is continuing on the Integrated Rail Plan.
She added: “We will publish it shortly and do not comment on speculation.”