Grant Shapps Insists Rail Promises Are 'Absolutely Being Fulfilled'

Transport secretary accuses Sky News of "not accurate reporting" when challenged over why key lines have been scrapped.
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Transport secretary Grant Shapps has insisted rail promises are “absolutely being fulfilled” despite fury that a key part of HS2 has been scrapped.

In a fiery exchange with Sky News, Shapps hit back at critics who lamented the details in the government’s integrated £96billion rail plan, which were met with almost unanimous opposition from northern leaders.

The eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds, which Boris Johnson repeatedly promised would go ahead, will no longer be built, while a new Northern Powerhouse rail link from Manchester to Leeds will be downgraded.

The step-change means that Bradford, which has the worst rail connections in the UK, will miss out on a new station completely.

Despite the outcry, Shapps denied that the government had broken promises to the north, and said they are “absolutely being fulfilled”.

He cited how journey times between northern cities would be slashed from what they are now, including from Manchester to Leeds, which he said would take 33 minutes, and from Bradford to Leeds, which he said would take 12 minutes.

However, he did not mention that, while quicker than now, the journeys would still be slower than under the government’s original plans.

The transport secretary sought to dismiss criticism of the government plans as complaints from “largely Labour leaders” whom he accused of “completely misleading people”.

“This will have been the only time in history when massively improving everybody’s rail services would have been counted as a betrayal,” he said.

However, it has not just been Labour opponents who have spoken out against the IRP.

Huw Merriman, Conservative chair of the transport select committee, criticised Boris Johnson for “selling perpetual sunlight” and delivering “moonlight” on rail projects for the north of England.

“The Prime Minister promised that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse rail was not an either/or option and those in Leeds and Bradford may be forgiven for viewing it today as neither,” he said on Wednesday.

“This is the danger in selling perpetual sunlight and leaving the others to explain the arrival of moonlight.”

And Red Wall Tory MP Robbie Moore said he was “deeply disappointed” by the rail announcement as his constituency is one of the most “socially-deprived” parts of the UK.

Moore, who represents Keighley and Ilkey in West Yorkshire, said: “The Bradford district has been, in my view, completely short-changed.

“We are one of the most socially-deprived parts of the UK and we must get better transport connectivity, and I still want to see Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered with a main stop in Bradford, so that we can unlock our economic opportunities.”