UK government faces criticism over high-speed rail overhauls

LONDON (AP) — The British government was set on fire on Thursday as it scrapped a long-planned high-speed rail line to the north…

LONDON (AP) — The British government was set on fire on Thursday as it scrapped the long-planned high-speed rail line to the northern British city of Leeds as part of an overhaul package that has the potential to cut costs by tens of billions of pounds.

Critics argue that downscaling the plans would put many areas of northern England, especially those in the east, at an economic disadvantage, and Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson opposes his ambition to “level up” the country by spreading prosperity away from Europe. London and other wealthy areas in the south.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps told lawmakers that the new high-speed rail line, known as HS2, is planned to be extended to Leeds in the northeast, and the new high-speed trains will run on existing lines. He also said that a high-speed rail line connecting Manchester and Leeds at a distance of about 45 miles (72 kilometers) will now be a combination of the new line and improvements to existing infrastructure.

The HS2 trains, which will reach a speed of 250 mph, aim to shorten journey times, connect cities outside London to high-speed lines in Europe via the Channel Tunnel and increase capacity.

The HS2 is being built in phases, the first of which connects London with the central UK city of Birmingham. The first line is set to be ready at the beginning of the decade.

From Birmingham the main goal was to build more lines, one to northwest Manchester and the other to northeast Leeds. The high-speed line to Manchester will still continue, reducing the round trip to London from around an hour to a little over an hour.

The decision to reduce HS2 will make journeys between Leeds and London 32 minutes longer than previously planned.

Robbie Moore, a Conservative MP for the Keighley constituency near Leeds, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the changes that “completely changed the short-term” of his constituents.

“We are one of the most socially deprived areas of the UK and we need to have better transport connectivity,” he said.

Shapps insisted the £96bn ($130bn) Integrated Rail Plan would reduce journey times in northern and central England with 110 miles (177km) of new high-speed track, and said the benefits would come in “a decade”. or more” earlier than previously anticipated.

“This plan will bring the north and the Midlands closer together, fueling economies to rival London and the South East, rebalancing our economic geography, spreading opportunities, rejuvenating the country,” he said.

For decades, a North-South wealth divide was evident in England. Successive governments have sought to bridge this gap, and new high-speed rail links have been introduced to the north of England, particularly in and around London, away from the southern regions as a way to attract investment.

The north of England, formerly the economic powerhouse of the British economy, has suffered in recent years as many of the old industries that facilitated its success, such as coal, cotton and shipbuilding, have disappeared.

Johnson won a large majority in the last general election in 2019, vowing to do something about this division and winning a large number of seats in what has historically been the heart of the Labor Party.

The prime minister was traveling on trains stopping in areas affected by the plan and meeting with rail staff on Thursday.

The main opposition Labor Party described the revised package in light of earlier assurances as the “Great Train Robbery” and Johnson’s “betrayal” to those who “lent it” their votes in the last election.

Mayors in the north of England have scolded the government for shorting the area once again, even in cities that will directly benefit from the construction of HS2.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the North had been given a “clearly second best” package.

“We’re sick of it, and our residents are sick of it,” he said.

Not everyone is in love with the HS2. Some lawmakers feel that the entire project should be shelved, given the costs, such as the ease of hosting online meetings, and the expected long-term changes in work patterns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Others complain about the environmental cost of building one of Europe’s largest planned infrastructure projects in the coming years.

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