Study on getting HS2 trains to Leeds welcomed

Midlands Connect has welcomed the terms of reference published by the Minister of State for Rail and HS2, for a study that considers the most effective way to run HS2 trains to Leeds.

Huw Merriman MP said the Government stood by the conclusions of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), published in November 2021, which set out a £96 billion investment to benefit the Midlands and the North.

This came after the government scrapped the Eastern leg of HS2 between the Midlands and Leeds, which had the effect of lengthening planned journey times by 20 minutes.

However, the government insisted the new IRP would deliver results more quickly and cheaply and in publishing the terms of reference for the study considering the most effective way to run HS2 trains to Leeds more than 18 months later, Merriman reiterated that the Integrated Rail Plan represented the largest ever government investment in the railways. 

"As part of the Plan, we committed to take forward a study to consider the most effective way to run HS2 trains to Leeds," Merriman said.

"I am today (17 July 2023) publishing the terms of reference for this work, which will include consideration of station capacity at Leeds and the implications of different options on the wider network.

"The proposals set out in the Integrated Rail Plan bring communities and labour markets together and will support growing our economy in towns and cities across the nation.

"The work in the study will consider a range of options and take account of value for money, affordability, deliverability and timescales, economic development, disruption to passengers and local views and evidence." 

He added the study would be extensive, taking two years to complete.

"As this work progresses, we intend to review the case for dropping certain options, taking account of evidence gathered, particularly on costs, affordability, benefits and value for money," he said.

Earlier this month, the Transport Select Committee published the government’s response to their report on the Integrated Rail Plan. 

The government has now accepted that it should "reconsider the case for the development of a new station in Bradford" as the development of the St James’s Market station would not only enhance rail connectivity in the North, allowing further investment in the city, but also provide further opportunities for rail development in Bradford after the ‘core pipeline’ of IRP upgrades take place.

Merriman said: "The government stands by the conclusions of the Integrated Rail Plan on Bradford, and the benefits that plan brings to the city. 

"However, in light of this recommendation, a reassessment of the evidence for better connecting Bradford and the case for a new station will now form part of the Northern Powerhouse Rail development programme and the HS2 to Leeds Study.

"The government’s approaches for Leeds and Bradford remain those which were set out in the Integrated Rail Plan and the undertaking of this work does not guarantee further interventions will be agreed or progressed."

Despite this, Merriman said the government remained committed to the "Integrated Rail Plan’s £96 billion envelope" and expects that additions or changes to the core IRP pipeline will be affordable within that. 

Maria Machancoses, Midlands Connect’s CEO said she welcomed the release of the "much awaited" terms of reference for the HS2 review up to Leeds.

“Midlands Connect remains unanimous on the enormous economic, social and environmental benefits associated with getting HS2 connections from the Midlands to the North," she said.

“We will now seek to be actively involved in the next stages of development ensuring as part of the study, consideration is given to our proposals for improved services from the East Midlands to Leeds and beyond.”

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