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Rumours of HS2 East being scrapped sparks concerns about impact on East Midlands

Concerns have been raised about the future of high-speed rail in the East Midlands and Nottinghamshire following reports the HS2 East project could be scrapped.

National reports have suggested the eastern leg of the high-speed rail link could be dropped by ministers in a bid to save hundreds of millions of pounds.

The Government has not commented on the most recent reports but one local Conservative MP described them as “just rumours”.

The rail route would connect East Midlands Parkway with a new high-speed station in Birmingham before linking with other new infrastructure to London.

The high-speed project has been decades in the making and was originally due to have connections between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

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Journey times between Nottinghamshire and Birmingham could be cut from 72 to 26 minutes under the plans, while London-Nottingham travel could halve to 51 minutes.

However, uncertainty over the eastern leg has remained following the publication of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) in November 2021.

The document confirmed HS2 East itself would only run between Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway, with connections to Sheffield and Leeds dropped in favour of upgrades to the existing Midland Mainline.

A piece of work to determine the future of the 140km stretch between Leeds and Nottinghamshire was due to begin following the publication of the IRP.

Councillor Ben Bradley (Con), Mansfield’s MP and the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, has since confirmed this has yet to start.

He described suggestions HS2 East could be scrapped as “just rumours” and “speculation”, adding ministers have not suggested to him that this is the case.

Cllr Bradley said:

“I’ve spoken to ministers about this and I’ve never heard a minister – the people who decide – ever say that to me about HS2 East.

“What we are waiting for is for the Department for Transport (DfT) to do an assessment on the options between East Midlands Parkway, Sheffield and Leeds.

“That process was said to start after the IRP in November 2021 and hasn’t started yet.

“My big question and push for ministers are to get on making those decisions. That’s what will decide what HS2 looks like coming through Nottinghamshire.

“I think it’s very unlikely ministers would scrap it when they’ve promised that review and it hasn’t even started.”

Cllr Matt Relf (Ash Ind), the cabinet member for regeneration at Ashfield District Council, fears scrapping HS2 East would “make an absolute mockery of levelling up”.

He said: “Any cancellation of the Eastern Leg of HS2 will have a devastating impact on the economy of places like Ashfield, Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands.

“This would represent yet another broken promise from the Government and one that is utterly unforgivable.

“It would make an absolute mockery of levelling up, introducing further inequality across the country.

“If the eastern leg of HS2 doesn’t go ahead, it represents a catastrophic failure in political leadership.”

Cllr Kate Foale, leader of the Labour Group at County Hall, also raised concerns during Thursday’s full council meeting.

She said: “I understand the eastern leg of HS2 is about to be scrapped. That’s not very good for our local economy, is it?”

The DfT neither confirmed nor denied these suggestions when questioned by the Local Democracy Reporting Service and has previously labelled them “speculation”.

A spokesperson said the Government is committed to HS2’s western leg, between Manchester and Euston, with “spades in the ground”.

However, it did reaffirm its commitment to following up on plans included in the IRP.

The spokesperson said: “Spades are already in the ground on the HS2 programme. It will better connect regions across the UK, provide a greener option for travel and is supporting tens of thousands of jobs.

“We remain committed to delivering the project from Euston to Manchester and continue to work in line with the Integrated Rail Plan.”

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