HS2: Scrapping of Leeds leg will 'blight the life chances for millions of people'

18 November 2021, 12:30 | Updated: 18 November 2021, 12:33

By Sophie Barnett

A rail expert has told LBC the "life chances for millions of people are being blighted" by the government's U-turn to ditch the Leeds leg of HS2.

Nigel Harris, the managing editor of The Rail Magazine, told James O'Brien that the HS2 network will "collapse" as it was announced that the eastern-leg has been ditched.

"The life chances, the job chances, the economic chances, the opportunity for millions of people is being blighted at a stroke," Mr Harris said.

It comes as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the controversial scrapping of the Leeds leg, which goes via Sheffield, in the House of Commons on Thursday.

It marks a scaling back of long-awaited railway plans for the North and Midlands.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the £96 billion "integrated rail plan" would slash journey times across the region with 110 miles of new high-speed line.

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But Labour said the package unveiled in the House of Commons abandoned previous assurances given on the extension of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – and described the integrated rail plan announcement as a "great train robbery".

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon added that the government has "betrayed" the North.

Mr Harris told James the reason the news will hit people so hard is because of the loss of opportunities.

"The whole levelling up thing was absolutely required and this was a plan that has been 15 years in the making, that's on the brink of being done," Mr Harris explained.

"We committed on the western leg and now the most transformative part of it, the bit that drives all the benefits, throughout the HS network and the country as a whole, has been scrapped."