The potential scrapping of the second leg of HS2 will have serious implications for capacity on the East Coast Mainline, according to York’s transport executive.
Around £25bn has been spent on building HS2 so far and estimates show it could cost more than £100bn to finish, despite estimates being just £37.5bn in 2009.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out cancelling the second leg between Manchester and Birmingham, and it is now expected to terminate at Old Oak Common rather than London Euston.
The leg between Birmingham and Leeds was scrapped in 2021.
Coun Pete Kilbane, executive member for economy and transport for the City of York Council, echoed Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s comments at a Transport for the North board meeting on September 27.
“The withdrawal of what for us is the best upgrade we’ve had for passenger experience really does feel like levelling down in the north,” he said.
“We’re already feeling like we’re being treated as second-class citizens.”
He added: “There are huge trust issues here with the public because of our experience so it’s [about] ways we can rebuild that trust.”
Coun Kilbane also said the scaling down of HS2 has implications for other railway lines that run through Yorkshire.
“HS2 has an enormous impact on capacity for the East Coast Mainline because if it’s not built then that’s going to have to keep on carrying the strain and we are going to have to make those difficult decisions.”
He said there will be a choice between passengers or freight, adding: “It’s only got so much capacity.”
Coun Kilbane also made the point that a through service to Scarborough is needed to manage holidaymakers in the summer.
“We’re hugely disappointed there’s not going to be through trains all the way to the east coast to Scarborough,” he said.
“We’ve got real concerns for the east coast holiday resorts for next summer and how all that’s going to work.”
Robin Gisby, chief executive officer of DfT OLR Holdings Limited, said: “The leisure market is important to us and I think a shuffle to Scarbrough in the winter months might be a bit different than a shuffle to Scarborough in some of the holiday destinations in the summertime, so I think that’s one of the things we might look at in the next year.”
The way HS2 has been managed was also criticised on BBC Question Time by Northern Powerhouse Partnership chief executive Henri Murison on September 28.
He said: “ I think we can come up with a credible plan to make it cheaper,” adding that you cannot build it “whatever the cost.”
“If you were going to take away HS2, you’d think there would be something significant to replace it, but I don’t think that will happen either,” Mr Murison added.
“What the government has decided is that they’re not really interested in economic growth, because up here we earn £8,000 a year less than people in the south of England, and that’s because we’re disconnected from each other.”