NEWS of the scrapping of the eastern HS2 leg between Birmingham and Leeds and the shelving of the much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse Rail trans-Pennine programme has been greeted with howls of anger from Red Wall Tories and Labour alike.
But upgrading existing train links between major cities in the North and Midlands will do more for levelling up Britain than the billions spent on HS2.
Ministers believe this “make do and mend” strategy will make it far quicker to build and cut costs for the network over the next two decades.
Investment of £96billion announced this week by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will halve train times between key cities, with a journey from Birmingham to Nottingham being cut from 72 minutes to just 27 minutes.
This common-sense decision will put the emphasis back on improving connections between regional cities rather than focusing solely on high-speed journeys to and from London. Improved interconnectivity will do more to bring prosperity to deprived areas than HS2 draining away talent to the capital.
It chimes perfectly with a recent shift back to rail as a more cost-effective way to deliver goods. With driver shortages set to endure for months, supermarkets are beating empty shelves and higher costs by shifting to freight trains.
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