Boris Johnson’s own MPs turn on him over HS2 U-turn – ‘The price will be paid for generations’

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·Political Correspondent - Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the Network Rail hub at Gascoigne Wood, near Selby, North Yorkshire, to coincide with the announcement of the Integrated Rail Plan. Picture date: Thursday November 18, 2021.
Boris Johnson said the benefits of the HS2 line between Manchester and Leeds, which the government have now axed, would be 'collosal' in 2019. (PA Images)

Northern Tory MPs have hit out at their own prime minister following a government U-turn which scraps the eastern leg of HS2 and downgrades plans for the Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the plans in parliament on Thursday, with one Conservative colleague claiming the government is "short-changing" voters in the North.

The new £96bn Integrated Rail Plan bins the extension of HS2 from the East Midlands to Leeds, with HS2 trains instead running largely on existing lines.

The service between Leeds and Manchester will be a combination of new track and enhancements to existing infrastructure.

The Midland Main Line and the Transpennine routes will be fully electrified.

Read more:

HS2: All the delays and U-turns on £100bn rail project since it started

Boris Johnson slammed after confirming HS2 will not be built in full

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"I'm deeply disappointed by this announcement," said Robbie Moore, Conservative MP for the West Yorkshire constituency of Keighley. 

"The Bradford district has been, in my view, completely shortchanged. 

"We are one of the most socially deprived parts of the UK and must get better transport connectivity. 

"And I still want to see Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered, with a main stop in Bradford so we can unlock our economic opportunities."

robbie moore MP
Conservative MP Robbie Moore accused the government of 'short-changing' voters in the North. (parliamentlive.tv)

Moore was not alone with his discontent, with other Conservative backbenchers challenging the government on the issue. 

Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton in North Yorkshire, Kevin Hollinrake, said the cancellation of the plans would affect generations to come.

“A new station would have given [Bradford] a Kings Cross-style regen opportunity," he said. 

"The economic price will be paid for generations”.

Sir Edward Leigh, Tory MP for Gainsborough in the East Midlands, described the HS2 as a "white elephant". 

“HS2 was always a white elephant," he said. "Now... it’s a white elephant missing a leg. Where’s that promise?”

The government's pledges on railways were a key part of their manifesto pledges in 2019 as they set their sights on Labour heartlands and won its majority. 

The new line was originally conceived to link London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds city centres.

Johnson described the plans for the Manchester to Leeds high speed rail route at the time as "colossal", pledging to create a 'Midlands engine' and a 'Northern Powerhouse'. 

An aerial view of the entrance to the Chiltern Tunnels at the south portal HS2 align compound, in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. Picture date: Wednesday November 3, 2021.
HS2, which costs £106bn, has been beset by problems since it was first launched in 2009. (PA Images)

The £106bn project has long been beset by problems from its outset in 2009 – including delays, soaring costs, and protests from the public that the train tracks will damage the countryside. 

Advocates for the railway say it is vital in order to enable the Midlands and the North to enjoy the same level of connectivity and economic prosperity as the South. 

In the aftermath of the announcement, the prime minister described accusations that he was letting down his voters as "total rubbish", and said the new plans will increase rail capacity. 

"We’re trebling capacity between Liverpool and Manchester," he said. 

"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. We will eventually do them."

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Shadow transport Jim McMahon, Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton, accused the government of a "great train robbery" in his response to Shapps' statement in the House of Commons. 

“There’s no amount of gloss, no amount of spin that can be put on this," he said. 

"He promised HS2 to Leeds, he promised Northern Powerhouse Rail, he promised the North wouldn’t be forgotten."

He accused the government of betraying the North, and added Shapps claiming he was "proud" of the government's announcements left him "speechless". 

“Proud of what?” MacMahon said. 

“Of breaking promises? Of selling the north of England out?”

Watch: Eastern leg of high-speed line to Leeds scrapped and plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail downgraded

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