HS2 Sheffield: Northern leaders united at 'betrayal' over high speed rail

Northern leaders were united in criticism, disappointment and anger at the government’s flagship rail plan which cancelled HS2 through Yorkshire and left Sheffield with ‘crumbs’.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 4:32 pm

Five metro-mayors, including Dan Jarvis of South Yorkshire, staged an unprecedented joint press conference to convey their fury. And they sent a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the plan to be put to a free vote in Parliament - in the hope it will be ditched.

Read More

Read More
South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis warns levelling up will 'fail utterly' without ...

Meanwhile, Kate Josephs, chief executive of Sheffield City Council, broke from her usual apolitical stance with an outspoken tweet stating: “I was asked early this morning if I felt Sheffield had been betrayed, I answered diplomatically that I wanted to see the full detail in the IRP before commenting.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Metro Mayors (left to right) Andy Burnham, Mayor, Greater Manchester, Jamie Driscoll, Mayor, North of Tyne, Tracy Brabin, Mayor, West Yorkshire, Steve Rotherham, Mayor, Liverpool City Region, and Dan Jarvis, MP, Barnsley Central & Mayor, South Yorkshire.

“Update: I've now seen the IRP. Betrayed is putting it mildly #GreatTrainRobbery’.”

MPs, local politicians and leaders in business and all sections of society poured out criticism of the plan and government’s ‘shambolic’ handling of the process.

High speed rail was announced by Labour in 2009 and reviewed by the coalition government in 2012 as a Y-shaped network linking London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Kate Josephs, chief executive Sheffield City Council.

Arguments over the route through South Yorkshire were finally resolved in July 2016 when government announced a mainline through Doncaster with a loop off it serving Sheffield city centre.

But commitment to the ‘eastern leg’ of the project ebbed as costs spiralled and reviews, leaks and hints pointed to it potentially being axed, despite ministerial promises.

That moment arrived with the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan, itself a year late.

Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake. Picture Scott Merrylees

For Sheffield, it offers electrification of Midland Mainline to the city by ‘around 2030’, a project which was promised in 2013 and cancelled in 2017. It also says HS2 trains ‘could’ arrive from the East Midlands on old tracks in the ‘early-mid 2040’s.

Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam, said Northern Powerhouse Rail had been announced on 60 separate occasions.

She added: “We were promised £39bn investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail, which the Government announced on 60 separate occasions.

“We were promised HS2 across the North. We were promised nothing short of a rail revolution, bringing us into the 21st century and ready to meet the challenge of the climate emergency.

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh. Picture Scott Merrylees

“Sadly, what we’re getting instead is a reminder not to trust a word that comes out of Boris Johnson’s mouth: Northern Powerhouse Rail is basically cancelled and HS2’s eastern expansion to Leeds will be scrapped.”

She referred to The Star’s new campaign for compensation after years of broken promises on transport which have saved the government billions.

She added: “I’m proud to back calls to extend the Supertram to Sheffield’s hospitals and to bring our buses back under public ownership, to provide public transport everywhere it’s needed.

“I will also keep campaigning to bring rail services back to the Sheaf Valley and reopen former stations like Millhouses, Heeley, and Beauchief. Because we need all of this, and massive investment in national and regional transport infrastructure, if the North is to have a viable economy and if we’re going to tackle the climate crisis.”

Coun Louise Gittins, interim chair of Transport for the North, said the new rail plan was ‘woefully inadequate’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visit Huddersfield Train Station, West Yorks, as he announces as he answers questions on HS2.

She added: “After decades of underfunding, the rail network in the North is not fit for purpose. It is largely twin-track Victorian infrastructure trying to cope with the demands of a 21st Century economy.

“Leaders from across the North and from across the political divide came together to ask for a network that would upgrade the North for this century and in line with the rest of the country. Our statutory advice asked for an over £40 billion network but the Government has decided to provide even less than half of that.”

The leaders of South Yorkshire’s Chambers of Commerce said the North deserved better than to be ‘treated with disdain’.

In a joint statement they said: “Overall, this package represents a massive scaling back of promised investments in the North worth billions.

“Cancelling high-speed lines and trumpeting upgrades won't give us the 21st century rail network we need and were promised. Repeatedly.

“Businesses know this is 'watering down', not 'levelling up'. They know it means lost potential for jobs and investment in supply chains and communities.

“In the eyes of business this confirms a pattern of treatment by the UK government in the way it works with northern communities. It makes promises, doubles down on them, then breaks them. It then presents these broken promises as generous gifts we should be grateful for.

“Today should be a wake-up call to community, political and business leaders across South Yorkshire: we need to fight harder and more united than ever before to secure our economic future. Chambers stand ready to campaign with others to realise the full ambition of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.”

Louise Haigh MP for Sheffield Heeley, said: “This report was more than 12 months overdue, and it definitely was not worth the wait. The Prime Minister has once again shown people across the North of England that they do not matter to him or his government.

“When he was elected Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said he wanted Northern Powerhouse Rail to do for the North what Crossrail did for London. This is another in a long line of broken promises by this Prime Minister to the people of the North.

“If they had invested at the same rate as they have in London and the South East, we would have over £60bn in investment.

“Growth and jobs are being held back here because we are not well connected with other cities. It is utterly ridiculous that the fourth largest city in the UK does not have a direct connection to an airport.

“The Prime Minister is forcing us to continue rely on creaking Victorian infrastructure.

“People across the North deserve more; our communities deserve more. These plans will actively hold back investment and opportunities.”

To continue holding the powerful to account and giving people a voice, The Star needs you to subscribe, please.