Conservative politicians in the North and Midlands have joined with Labor in urging Boris Johnson to confirm his government will build the eastern part of the High Speed Two (HS2) rail line.
They called on ministers to release a long-awaited document called the Integrated Rail Plan, which is expected to confirm plans for HS2 and for a proposed Northern Powerhouse rail line across the Pennines.
A multi-party letter was sent to the Prime Minister and supported by Conservative MPs from the North and Midlands, including Sedgefield MP Paul Howell.
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He said: “Let’s continue with the east leg of HS2 and let our communities thrive.”
Peter Gibson, Tory MP for Darlington, and Ben Bradley, and Tory MP for Nottinghamshire and Head of Nottinghamshire County Council, also backed the letter.
And he was backed by Labor MPs such as Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell and Middlesbrough Labor MP Andy McDonald.
The letter calls on the government to give the green light to HS2 East to move to delivery and implementation as soon as possible.
The integrated rail plan was originally due to be released by the end of 2020. The Department for Transport said the plan would consider how best to integrate the northern sections of the HS2 network, including the lines from Birmingham to Manchester and Birmingham. . in Leeds, with other projects, including Northern Powerhouse Rail.
The aim is to create a high-speed rail network across the North, with trains running to Durham, Darlington and Newcastle as well as Yorkshire and the North West. As the new Northern network would be integrated into HS2, trains would also run to Birmingham and London.
However, it has been reported that the government may downgrade or cancel the eastern section of the network, including services to the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East. HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston has revealed that the Department for Transport has ordered work on the eastern part to stop, although work on the western part of the network, connecting Birmingham to Manchester, continues.
Paul Howell, Tory MP for Sedgefield, said: “County Durham is a key manufacturing powerhouse for North East England’s status as a net exporter to the UK. This is why freight is important in the North, UK and globally.
“Bottlenecks on the East Coast Mainline are not only restricting passenger travel north of Northallerton, they are costing vital trade to industry and clogging our roads, and it will only get worse as we must reduce carbon emissions to remain competitive. The government is committed to leveling our country, so let’s continue with the east leg of HS2 and let our communities thrive. “
Darlington Conservative MP Peter Gibson said: “Darlington and the whole of the North East were transformed by the birth of railways 200 years ago. As the UK seeks to recover from the ‘post-Covid and to implement the upgrade program, we must once again see the railway as a growth engine for our region and continue to invest in our rail network. “
Catherine McKinnell, Labor MP for Newcastle North, said: “Increasing rail freight capacity via the eastern section of HS2 is essential for the North East of England and the UK economy. This would reduce the pinch points that restrict passenger trains on the East Coast Main Line to Newcastle and also significantly reduce carbon emissions and industry costs by shifting millions of heavy-duty routes to the railroads.
“I support the call for Boris Johnson to sign HS2 East and increase freight routes to support all of Britain and the North.”
The government has repeatedly said the integrated transport plan will be released “soon”, and the pledge was made again today by Prime Minister spokesman Boris Johnson. He said: “We will soon be releasing the Integrated Rail Plan, which will explain how major projects, including HS2 Phase 2b and Northern Powerhouse Rail, will work together to provide reliable rail services in these regions.”
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