TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has warned the Government not to scrap the Eastern Leg of High Speed 2 (HS2).
Speaking at ‘HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail’ a fringe meeting on day three of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Cortes said he was “really fearful” Ministers are preparing to halt the Phase 2 Eastern leg of the route - from Birmingham to Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds.
In August TSSA wrote to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, seeking assurances over the future of the Eastern leg, following media reports the Department for Transport (DfT) wants to ditch the extension through to Leeds. No such assurances have since been forthcoming.
Cortes told the fringe meeting - which included Labour MPs Lilian Greenwood and Hilary Benn - “My fear is that the Tories made a botched job of Brexit and with the economy after the pandemic, they are going to have some real economic challenges and the first thing they are going to cut is investment.
“I’m really fearful now that probably [the Eastern] leg of HS2 might be a casualty of that. We should be doing the opposite of that. At a time when you have got economic difficulties, the way out is not by cutting but through investment and building a stronger economy.
“We need to make sure HS2 gets built, that we start to look at the railway in a different way – that it is a public good, it’s good for the climate, it’s good for our people and we need investment in our railways going forward and only a Labour Government will deliver it.”
Cortes also called for HS2 to be extended, rather than reduced in scale, saying - “my view is we haven’t done enough. HS2 should go all the way to Scotland and that is what my union is arguing very strongly.
“The good thing about this programme is it’s win-win. It’s going to help us decarbonise, it’s going to allow us to move freight on the railways, it's going to create lots of well-paid trade unionised jobs.”
He added that HS2 would “put rocket boosters under any kind of regional development. Anywhere you build a high-speed railway station it aids urban regeneration. It helps the whole regional economy, it gives you better connectivity. So, this is vitally, vitally important.”