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Bradford promised two-hour link to London if HS2 goes ahead
Bradford will today be offered the prospect of a two-hour direct rail link to London, if the troubled HS2 scheme goes ahead.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin will point to the city as one of the places most in line to benefit from high-speed rail – despite being off the direct route.
The Telegraph & Argus first revealed in August that train travel to Bradford could be transformed because the £42.6 billion project will free up space on existing lines.
Now the Department for Transport (Dft) will specifically name a Bradford-London link as a key extra benefit that HS2 can deliver, in a fresh business case for the scheme.
A briefing note, seen by the T&A, reads: “Possible faster direct service, Bradford-Wakefield-London. Bradford will be two hours from London.”
At the same time, the Transport Secretary will pile pressure on Labour not to pull the plug on HS2, by pointing to firm support from Labour council leaders across the North.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls (pictured) dropped a bombshell last month, when he warned Labour might withdraw support, even if the budget stays at £42.6 billion. David Cameron has accepted HS2 can only go ahead with all-party support, because it involves huge spending stretching over many parliaments.
Mr McLoughlin will say today: “Labour leaders in our great cities know this project is right.
“They know that any threat to the new line is also a threat to the future of the North and the Midlands.”
And he will challenge Mr Balls directly, saying: “You can’t say one day you back better infrastructure, only the next threaten to stop it being built. You can’t play politics with our prosperity.”
The Bradford route would become possible because existing services between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh and Newcastle would be longer be needed.
However, the likely improvements for Bradford and the rest of the North will not arrive until phase two of HS2 is completed, in 2033.
HS2 will deliver 225mph trains from London to Birmingham by 2026 – and a Y-shaped network, on to Leeds and Manchester, seven years later.
Yesterday, the Dft started the fightback by warning an upgrade of existing lines – touted as an alternative to HS2 – would require weekend closures for 14 years. The London to Leeds journey time could almost double to four and a half hours while the work is completed, imposing misery on passengers, Network Rail warned.
But the DfT is likely to have to downgrade its “benefit-cost ratio” today, after accepting that business executives are able to work while travelling.
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