The Times has revealed that the Northern section of HS2 could be delayed by a further year.
The disclosure refutes Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announcement last summer that the tabling of the bill for phase 2b – Crewe to Manchester, Birmingham to Leeds – would be tabled within the next year. The Times understands that the Government are planning on pausing the legislation until 2020.
The Department for Transport has refused to confirm the delay, issuing a statement which said: "In order to maximise the huge potential of HS2, it is important to make sure it takes full account of the emerging vision for the other transformative project of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
"Phase 2b of the railway will connect the great cities of the North to boost jobs, housing and economic growth, and remains on track to open in 2033.
"We will update Parliament as part of our consultation this autumn."
The news comes after the DfT set out their nine promises for what HS2 would mean for Leeds, including an all-new train station, a revitalised South Bank, thousands of new jobs, new homes and more. Indeed, many council plans are designed to dovetail with the construction and launch of the HS2 transport scheme.
It would be an embarrassment to the Government run company, which recently received support in the region from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who travelled to Leeds as part of his journey on the ‘Northern Powerhouse rail route’, in order to highlight his party’s commitment to providing at least £10bn to the scheme, should they find themselves in power.
Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and member of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, claimed it is "imperative" that HS2 is opened in northern England as scheduled.
She said: "Any delay in the process which will deliver HS2 to the North is concerning and it is essential that this does not have a knock-on impact on the timetable for construction or the opening of the eastern leg."
Any questions over the viability of the Northern section of HS2 will come as a blow to the cities rapidly expanding housing market, with many developers’ timing the launch of their own projects with the HS2 launch, with some anticipating significant demand thanks to the launch of the high-speed rail network.
The news comes as Managing Director of HS2 Ltd, Paul Griffiths, has announced he is to step down in December having been in charge of the Northern section of HS2. Mr Griffiths joined the company in 2015 and becomes just the latest board member to leave the project.
The Financial Times report that a third of HS2’s board has left in the past year, including the chairman David Higgins, finance director Steve Allen and non-executive director Lord Adonis. Nearly a fifth of HS2’s staff has left the organisation in 2017-18, a figure which casts a dim light on the project.