A statement has been issued from Andrew Stephenson, HS2 Minister, following the publication of additional safeguarding directions for the West Midlands to Leeds section of the High Speed Two (HS2) railway, known as Phase 2b Eastern Leg.
Within his statement, Mr Stephenson said the final design of the Eastern Leg and its integration with Northern Powerhouse Rail will be determined by the government’s integrated plan which he aims to publish early this year.
The latest safeguarding update includes a site east of Leeds. The site required by the HS2 rail project would support the potential integration between HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
He further said the developer of the site has been made aware of the safeguarding directors previous to their publication as has the local planning authority, Leeds City Council.
By protecting the site now, the government guards against potentially conflicting development, which could then disrupt the construction of HS2, as well as the risk of increased costs of building the new railway.
He also specified that this protects the public’s interest in spending taxpayer money in a balanced fashion. The government periodically reviews land requirements needed for the project and updates the extent of safeguarding accordingly.
It is hoped that the land requirements for Phase 2b of HS2 for the Crewe to Manchester (known as the Phase 2b Western Leg) section of the route will be updated before the deposit of the relevant hybrid bill.
Following the announcement Gareth Dennis, Railway engineer and writer said: “There’s a tense battle being fought between the Department for Transport and Her Majesty’s Treasury right now… On the one hand, the DfT have the evidence to show that rail needs to at least double its capacity by the middle of the century.
“On the other, HMT sees nothing but pound signs, and economic predictions amid an unprecedented pandemic that show only doom and gloom. At the centre of it all is High Speed 2 and in particular its most transformative section through the East Midlands and up to Leeds.
“Without it, the new railway just becomes a bypass for the West Coast Mainline, providing no capacity release on the Midland and East Coast Mainlines and essentially disintegrating its primary purpose. Does safeguarding mean that the eastern leg is safe? No. It does, however, mean that the battle is still being fought. There’s still some hope left.”
Tim Wood, TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail director, said: “We welcome this sensible and timely move by the Department for Transport. It ensures that the proposed route of HS2 through West Yorkshire is protected so that there will be fewer problems when the time for construction comes.
“As the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail route from Sheffield to Leeds will also use the HS2 route it safeguards the interests of that network too. Both HS2 and NPR are vital for the future prosperity of the North and must be built in full. They will help to level up the British economy and to build back better.”
Image: HS2 Ltd