An investment in future of rail
The significance of HS2 funding
CHANCELLOR PHILIP Hammond’s decision now to make additional funding available for HS2 links at Leeds Station is, at face value, a mundane matter at the end of a politically turbulent week in which his stance on Brexit – and apparent reluctance to prepare for Britain leaving the EU with no deal – has exposed the Government’s many fault-lines.
Yet, while Mr Hammond won’t be winning any popularity contests at present from transport campaigners, hardened Brexiteers and those more mischievous members of the national media who have chosen to portray him as Eeyore, the significance of this announcement should not be underestimated. By making it easier to connect HS2 with high-speed rail services across the Pennines, the Chancellor is, in fact, planning for the future.
After all, tomorrow’s generations will not thank today’s leaders if there’s no co-ordination between services at Leeds Station, where eyecatching plans have also been revealed this week for a £500m makeover commensurate with the ambition of the West Yorkshire city. This is why history might be kinder to Mr Hammond than his current caricature suggests. Effectively, it paves the way for the first section of track to be laid in time and it will enable leaders to plan ahead with confidence and clarity.
Yet, while it’s significant that Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn were both campaigning in the North and apparently in election mode four months after voters went to the polls, there are major misgivings about the direction, and funding, of transport policy in the North. Not only do passengers desperately need more trains, but they – and business leaders – want plans to upgrade links between Yorkshire and the North-West to be accelerated and not play second fiddle to London’s demands. Mr Hammond’s Budget on November 22 will be an opportunity to set the record straight.