Plans for HS2, the high-speed rail link from London to the Midlands and the North of England, have been scaled back by the Government.
The eastern leg of the line has been scrapped and the Northern Powerhouse Rail link from Manchester to Leeds downgraded.
Boris Johnson faced a backlash over the decision after the Government published its Integrated Rail Plan.
Huw Merriman, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Transport select committee, accused the Prime Minister of “selling perpetual sunlight” but delivering “moonlight” instead.
However, Mr Johnson insisted that the new rail plan was a “fantastic” blueprint and represented the “biggest investment in rail for at least 100 years”, worth £96bn.
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, also denied that the Government had reneged on promises to upgrade links for the North and Midlands in its revised rail plan for the region. He insisted the changes would mean faster journeys up to 10 years earlier than planned.
What is HS2?
High Speed 2 (HS2) is a proposed high-speed rail network intended to improve transport links between London and major cities in the Midlands and the North of England.
On Thursday, the Government published its Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) for the North and Midlands, detailing how the project would move forward.
The construction of the new railway has been split into three sections: phase 1 linking London and the West Midlands; Phase 2a connecting the West Midlands and the North via Crewe; and Phase 2b completing the railway to Manchester and Leeds.
High Speed 1 (HS1), the 67-mile railway which links London with the Channel Tunnel, was fully opened in 2007 at a cost of £5.8bn.
What changes have been made to the HS2 route?
The eastern leg of HS2 that was designed to link the East Midlands and Leeds has been scrapped. Instead, the high-speed line will stop at a new East Midlands Parkway station, about six miles south-west of Nottingham, with HS2 trains then continuing as far as Sheffield on upgraded mainline tracks.
Plans for a new line between Manchester and Leeds via Bradford have also been abandoned and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) will instead be a combination of new track and enhancements to existing infrastructure.
What effect will this have on journey times?
The decision to scrap the planned HS2 extension to Leeds will have a significant impact on journey times. Trips from London to Leeds are now expected to take 113 minutes, 20 minutes less than the current duration but 32 minutes longer than if the line had been built as planned.
London to York will also take 98 minutes, 14 minutes longer than if the eastern leg had been constructed.
The journey to Darlington will be 125 minutes, 12 minutes slower, and to Newcastle 148 minutes – an extra 11 minutes.
However, other areas will benefit from improved journey times. These include Nottingham, where the journey from London will be 26 minutes faster than under previous proposals.
Why are some opposed to the changes?
There has been strong opposition at the decision to scale back the plans, with critics of the move arguing it is not consistent with the Government’s stated commitment of “levelling up” the country.
Huw Merriman, chairman of the Commons transport committee, suggested Boris Johnson had backtracked on a promise that “HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail was not an either/or option”, adding: “Those in Leeds and Bradford may be forgiven for viewing it as neither.”
Robbie Moore, the Conservative MP for Keighley, said he was deeply disappointed, arguing that the Bradford area had been “completely short-changed” by the decision to scrap a planned new station.
There has also been anger in other areas of the country that have missed out entirely on the rail investment, including the East of England – with trains from London to Norwich taking nearly two hours.
How much will it cost?
The total plan, including both HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse projects, is expected to cost £96.4bn.
The completion of HS2 Phase 1 and 2a between London, the West Midlands and Crewe is predicted to cost £42.5bn. The Government has already spent £8.3bn up to March 2020 on constructing the line.
The Phase 2b western leg is expected to cost a further £17bn.
When will HS2 open?
The London and Birmingham leg of HS2 was due to open at the end of 2026. However, this is now expected to occur between 2029 and 2033.
The second phase was due to open in 2032-33, but this has also been pushed back to 2035-2040.