the North East is going to be left a long way from the HS2 network with little prospect of significant improvements, says report to the region's rail connectivity and competitiveness of the North East's economy. 

December 23, 2020 9:11 PM
Newcastle stationIt was already disappointing for the North East that the proposed "Y shape" HS2's eastern leg was to end between Leeds and York, with services further north operating on the existing East Coast Main Line, which has capacity constraints between Northallerton and Newcastle.
The latest assessment from the Government's National Infrastructure Commission into the rail needs of the North and Midlands appears to include options to end HS2's eastern leg at a new East Midlands station near the M1 between Nottingham and Derby, eliminating Leeds from the HS2 network, and leaving Newcastle hundreds of miles from the start of the HS2 fast track. Even if the Leeds link is retained, the report suggests this could jeopardise the viability of promised upgrades to "Northern Powerhouse Rail" services linking Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Newcastle.
The report identifies further options which remove the eastern leg of HS2 completely - a "regional links" option leaving only a London-Birmingham-Crewe HS2 line, but providing a new Northern Powerhouse rail line benefiting Leeds and Manchester, and an "upgrades" option which offers the North East the prospect of some capacity upgrades on the ECML north of York and the reopening of the Northumberland Blyth-Ashington line.
The political decision ahead is going to prove a key test of the Conservative Government's plans to "level up" the North. The NIC report suggests the North East is going to be left a long way from the HS2 network with little prospect of significant improvements to the region's rail connectivity and competitiveness of the North East's economy.
This poses three big questions for the region. Is the undoubted gain to Northumberland of the Blyth-Ashington line sufficient compensation for being left off the HS2 map? Is "Northern Powerhouse Rail" going to happen or not? And are our region's Labour council leaders on the Transport for the North board and Conservative MPs in Parliament doing enough to ensure the interests of the North East are being heard by those making these decisions? On this evidence, it's unclear that their voice is being listened to.
Cllr Greg Stone (Lib Dem)
Opposition spokesperson for transport and air quality, Newcastle City Council