MPs and local leaders from the midlands, Yorkshire and northeast England are urging Boris Johnson to commit to building the eastern leg of HS2, warning that it is needed to close the “inequality and disparity” between different parts of the UK.
The section of planned rail line, running from Birmingham through the east midlands and southern Yorkshire to Leeds would dramatically cut journey times between major cities in the region and beyond, and provide more capacity for local services.
But despite committing to other parts of the HS2 project, there is concern in regions set to benefit that the government could drop their part of the network at the last minute.
In a letter to the prime minister, 22 MPs whose areas would benefit from the scheme say they need “more certainty” that the government is committed to it.
They point to a new analysis showing “a stark disparity between the outcomes and life chances of communities” living along the eastern leg of HS2 Phase 2b compared to the rest of the UK.
They are joined by a dozen peers and the leaders of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Leeds, Derbyshire, Birmingham, Gateshead, Chesterfield, Derby, and Chesterfield councils – as well of chambers of commerce from across the eastern side of the UK.
“For generations the people living in these areas have been overlooked,” the letter reads.
“It is a fact that the communities along the eastern leg of Phase 2b suffer from lower productivity, are more financially stretched and less likely to achieve social mobility. In accordance with your ‘levelling up’ agenda, we urge you to tackle these issues by taking action now.”
They are also backed by two former transport secretaries from Labour and the Conservatives: Lord Adonis and Lord McLoughlin.
Communities along the eastern leg get on average less transport investment and have lower productivity rates than those elsewhere in the UK.
Productivity along the eastern leg is currently 22 per cent below the UK average, with transport investment 33 per cent down.
Darren Henry, the Conservative MP for Broxtowe and one of the signatories, said: “The government has committed to levelling up the UK economy, and delivering the eastern leg of HS2, in full, is an essential step in doing this.
“As well as creating thousands of highly skilled jobs, the eastern leg will also speed our transition to a cleaner, greener transport network. Poor access to transport is a key indicator of social deprivation. We need this investment to improve local and regional connectivity and speed the way to a productive recovery from Covid-19.”
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