Labour mayors and northern leaders have shared their concerns after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the northern leg of HS2 could be scrapped.
Labour mayors Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham, Tracy Brabin, Oliver Coppard, and Steve Rotheram issued a joint statement on Wednesday, warning that if government failed to deliver HS2 in full, the North of England would be left with “swathes” of Victorian transport infrastructure that was “unfit for purpose.”
The Guardian reported that ahead of a meeting in Leeds, the five mayors urged Rishi Sunak not to scale back, delay, or abandon the project. They also revealed that they had been “inundated” with feedback from concerned constituents.
The statement came after Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Leader of Manchester City Council Cllr Bev Craig wrote to the Prime Minister, expressing their concerns about the future of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
In the letter, they requested a meeting before any final decision was reached, adding that HS2 “should not be scrapped.”
Transport for the North (TfN) also issued a statement after its board meeting in Leeds. The sub-national transport body reaffirmed its belief that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail should be built in full, calling them “critical to the economy of the region.”
TfN Chair Lord McLoughlin said: “The Northern leaders spoke with one voice today. We need HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail built in full if we are to realise the full potential of the North and to level up our national economy. Let us not delay.”
Appearing at an event Doncaster, Dame Rosie Winterton urged caution. The Labour MP for Doncaster Central stated: “It’s very important that speculation doesn’t get out of control and you have a firm answer. I would want to see it obviously reaching further into the North. We can’t have got this far and then abandon a plan like that.”
A range of rail business leaders have expressed similar concerns about the future of HS2’s northern leg, which would connect Birmingham and Manchester.
Malcolm Prentice, managing director of rail MTMS, said that the project would “only be worthwhile if it managed to create a direct link between London Euston and Manchester.”
He added that, as well as shortening journey times between the North and South, HS2 would create capacity for freight traffic and support a modal shift from road to rail.