REGINAL ROUTES: Tees Valley mayor has called for HS2 to be scrapped
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen And Cllr Shane Moore At Hartlepool Station, Image: Tees Valley Combined Authority
The Tees Valley mayor has called for HS2 to be scrapped and the focus switched to regional rail routes, following the government’s transport announcement today.
Ben Houchen claims that he could revolutionise public transport if he was given just 1% of the funding budget for HS2.
However, he has said that plans to cut travel times between Darlington and Birmingham and from Darlington to London should be welcomed – even if the government did need to be monitored to ensure it was delivered quickly.
His comments came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the eastern leg of the HS2 route to Leeds would be scrapped.
There has been outrage from Labour MPs in the region, with Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald and Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham both saying that the government has gone back on its word.
Mr Houchen said: “HS2 will deliver nothing for Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool. The whole project is a waste of money and should be scrapped in order to focus on improving regional rail travel.
“As mayor, if I was given 1 per cent of the HS2 budget I would be able to revolutionise public transport on a scale we couldn’t possibly imagine today. But even without this level of funding, I’m ploughing hundreds of millions of pounds into transport in our area.
“Just a few weeks ago I secured a further £310m from Government so I could invest even more in our train stations, bus services and transport infrastructure so that local people can quickly and easily get around.
“If the plan outlined by the Government today can be delivered in the next few years and can cut travel times from Darlington to Birmingham by 45 minutes and we can get from Darlington to London 20 minutes quicker, then this should be welcomed as investors who will create the good-quality jobs for local people will be able to reach our region quicker – but we need to keep an eye on Government to make sure this is delivered and delivered quickly.
“While this £96bn of investment is welcome in the North I will always fight for more money and investment across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”
The government said that the £96 billion Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), which was announced today, would cut journey times across the North with 110 miles of new high-speed line.
However, the requested investment by northern leaders has been roughly cut in half and much of the cash will be directed towards upgrading existing routes instead of creating new lines.
Mr McDonald has said that the North East has been neglected for too long and the current plans are not good enough.
The Middlesbrough MP added: “Today’s announcement from the Government shows again that you cannot trust a word they say or a promise they make.
“For too long the North East has been forgotten and rail commuters have faced a poor service on inadequate infrastructure and major investment is needed across our regional network.
“It’s a different world compared with the South East.
“This shortchanging, make do and mend is simply not good enough. We have had 11 years of promises from this Tory Government and here is another one ripped to shreds.”
Mr Cunningham said that the government should not expect people to be happy with ‘crumbs from the table’ and said that it was not fixing transport problems for Teessiders.
The Stockton North MP added: “It’s completely unacceptable that people in Stockton North and Teesside, who have had to put up with old, inadequate rail stock and poor connectivity for too long, and will now likely face a record increase in rail fares in a few months’ time, paying more than 50% more to get to work than a decade ago.
“Instead of taking action on the cost-of-living crisis affecting people here in Teesside and fixing the transport problems they created, the Government are looking the other way, trapping us in a cycle of regional inequality, high tax, and low growth.
“It’s laughable and insulting to expect people to be satisfied with watered down schemes and crumbs from the table, after putting their faith in a Prime Minister who has gone back on his word at every opportunity.”
Words: Emily Craigie, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV