‘Half-baked’ proposals see HS2 lose eastern branch

16 November 2021

A much-heralded section of HS2 known as the ‘eastern leg’ which was due to extend from the Midlands to Leeds has been scrapped by the UK government, it was confirmed today.

Instead, the government is expected to announce a new ’common sense’ rail package for the North and Midlands that will provide £96bn (US$129bn) of funding for shorter routes which aim to deliver benefits more quickly and at lower cost.

The current journey time between London and Leeds is 2 hours 13 minutes but this would have been slashed by 52 minutes if HS2’s eastern leg had been built.

The decision to cancel has been greeted in many quarters with dismay, with some calling it ‘damaging’, others a ‘mistake’ that will ‘reduce the benefits’ of the London to Birmingham section currently under construction.

The development comes in the wake of doubts expressed by MPs over the cost of the eastern leg. Rumours have also been circulating for months about the scrapping or scaling back of the Leeds route. In its place, the government is expected to announce two shorter high-speed routes that will arise from upgrading existing lines: between Leeds and Sheffield, and between Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway.

Also affected is the proposed Northern Powerhouse line between Leeds and Manchester which is now expected to comprise mostly upgrades to existing track with some new line additions, but they will not be high-speed.