LIZ Truss has said she will not commit to reinstating plans for the HS2 line in Leeds – just a day after the UK government was criticized for scrapping another part of the rail project in northern England .
While the Tory leadership candidate said she was “fully committed” to building Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), she did not give details of the plan.
NPR is a scheme to improve rail links between Liverpool and Leeds.
Transport for the North, which advises the UK government on the region’s transport needs, has recommended the construction of new lines between towns.
READ MORE: UK must clarify if key HS2 link to Scotland will EVER be built
But the government’s integrated rail plan sparked outrage among northern leaders in November last year when it revealed a new line would only be built on one section, with the rest of the route benefiting from improvements to existing lines.
Truss did not say whether she would support NPR’s construction with new lines if she becomes prime minister.
She said she would not commit to reversing the decision to scrap the eastern leg of HS2 between the East Midlands and Leeds.
Truss told reporters in the city: ‘What I am committing to today is Northern Powerhouse Rail. I grew up in Leeds, I know how poor local transport is.
“What people need are good routes to get to work. This is where the real problem is for people going to work in West Yorkshire.
But she added: “I’m not going to commit to restoring this stage of HS2 (in Leeds).”
She added: ‘I am committed to Northern Powerhouse Rail moving forward, and I will immediately, on becoming Prime Minister, work with my new Transport Secretary, bringing together all local groups – councils, the mayor , MPs to create the plan to move forward with this really important project, but I am convinced that it is absolutely crucial for the future of the North of England.
When asked if Rishi Sunak was also committed to the project, Truss said: ‘What concerns me is that I’m ready to take on Whitehall orthodoxy, I’m ready to challenge groupthink which over the decades has not invested enough in this part of the country.
“I’m the person who can challenge Whitehall to keep going and really deliver over the next decade.”
Responding to his comments on NPR, Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a network of business leaders and citizens, said: ‘The outgoing Prime Minister broke his promises to the North when he released the plan integrated railway.
“It would bring back government support for Northern Powerhouse’s original vision of a single commute to work area in the Pennines, increasing productivity to ensure UK plc grows.
“Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister should build the new Manchester line, linking the airport to Bradford, with services to Leeds.”
Louise Haigh, Labor’s transportation secretary, accused Truss of only offering “weasel words” on the delivery of new lines.
She said, “The weasel words from the two continuity contenders as to whether they will deliver the promised new lines show that they are only delivering the same.
“Only a Labor government would provide the full Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2, build the infrastructure fit for the 21st century and give Britain the fresh start it needs.”
It follows calls for the UK government to clarify whether a vital piece of high-speed rail infrastructure will actually be built and bring benefits to the rail network in Scotland.
A report from Westminster’s transport select committee on the integrated rail plan raised concerns over the scrapping of the £3billion Golborne link with a lack of alternative proposals – a move that could impact rail capacity and journey times to Scotland.
The Committee’s report urged the Department for Transport to set out “alternative plans that add similar capacity at a minimum by March 2023”.
The release of the Integrated Rail Plan last year included plans for the link, which would integrate the new HS2 line with the existing main line from the west coast to southern Scotland.
READ MORE: UK blasted ‘incomprehensible’ lack of clarity on major carbon capture funding
However, the UK government announced last month that the link would be removed, with no replacement in place and that work on phase 2b of the HS2 project is expected to begin soon.
The news was met with fury by rail industry bodies, who said the decision to remove the 13-mile Golborne Link in Greater Manchester would cause a ‘bottleneck’.
A joint statement from the Railway Industry Association, Rail Freight Group and High-Speed Rail Group said the Tories’ decision would “negatively impact passenger outcomes, decarbonisation and levelling”.
Gavin Newlands, the SNP’s shadow transport secretary, slammed the move as the ‘latest in a long line of broken promises’ from the Tories.