Regional leaders have called on the Prime Minister to reject the option to downgrade HS2’s eastern Leg. The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) put a proposal forward to downgrade the line by terminating it in Nottinghamshire. This proposal has since been met with fierce resistance, with leaders from three councils calling on the government to reject it.
The debate over the future of HS2's eastern leg has sparked heated discussions and concerns amongst regional leaders, communities, and residents in the Midlands and North. HS2’s Eastern leg was initially planned to link Birmingham to Leeds, with stops in Toton, Chesterfield, Sheffield, and Leeds. This was seen as a crucial investment in the region, providing a boost to local economies, creating jobs, and improving transport connectivity.
The National Infrastructure Commission is an independent body set up to advise the government on infrastructure funding - made the recommendations as part of its Rail Needs Assessment (RNA) for the Midlands and the North. The option to downgrade the eastern side of Phase Two - linking Birmingham to Leeds - could see it terminate at East Midlands Parkway station in Nottinghamshire. But Nottinghamshire County Council leader Kay Cutts, Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake and Sheffield mayor Dan Jarvis said the NIC's suggestions "would be a devastating outcome" for cities and communities where the line was due to go. These include Toton, in Nottinghamshire, Chesterfield, in Derbyshire, and Sheffield and Leeds.
The proposed termination of the eastern leg in Nottinghamshire has been a contentious issue in recent years. This termination, if it were to happen, would mean that the communities that were supposed to benefit from the eastern leg would no longer receive the same level of investment and development opportunities that were promised, which could potentially lead to a significant economic setback. Many local councils, businesses, and community leaders in the North and Midlands have been voicing their concerns over the impact that the termination of the eastern leg would have on their region's economy. They argue that the delay in the eastern leg, in full, is costing the North and Midlands £4.9 billion each year.
In response to the proposal, a NIC spokesperson defended their recommendations saying: “Our analysis showed that prioritising regional rail links would likely deliver the highest economic benefits to the North and the Midlands, more quickly,"
"Planned rail investment in the North and the Midlands overall needs to increase. The level of additional funding made available for rail investments nationally is a decision for the government."
Regional leaders are not satisfied with this response and are urging the government to provide a clear timeline for delivering the eastern leg in full. They argue that the delay in delivering the project is costing the region billions and that the government needs to act fast to ensure that these communities receive the investment and development opportunities they were promised.
The debate over the future of HS2's eastern leg is far from over. With communities and regional leaders calling for action and the government yet to make a decision, it remains to be seen what the future holds for this critical project in the Midlands and the North. Department for Transport has said they plan to publish their integrated rail plan in early 2021.