Government launches study into connecting HS2 services to Leeds

The government has launched the long-awaited study into options for running High Speed 2 (HS2) trains to Leeds city centre.

The “HS2 to Leeds” study, as it has come to be known, was a £100M promise made in the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), published by the Department for Transport (DfT) in November 2021. It was a consolation for having cancelled the majority of the Eastern leg of HS2, which would have terminated in Leeds, and for focusing the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) on the “core network” between Manchester and Liverpool.

In the 20 months since the publication of the IRP, the DfT had given no indication as to the timescale that the HS2 to Leeds study would be carried out. This caused consternation among leaders in the North and last July the Transport Select Committee, as an outcome of its inquiry into the IRP, recommended that a timetable be published rapidly.

The government has now announced that the HS2 to Leeds study has commenced. As was revealed last week, the study will now also reassess evidence to improving rail connections to Bradford, including the possibility of a new station. This is thanks to a recommendation made by the Transport Select Committee.

The government’s study will consider capacity at Leeds Station and take into account local views, as well as factors such as disruption, economic development, value for money, affordability, deliverability and timescales.

Technical work will be led by Network Rail with support where needed from HS2 Ltd.

The study will assess “viable choices” consistent with the decisions reached in the Integrated Rail Plan. These would include but are not limited to:

  • via Newark: the extension of HS2 Nottingham services via Newark and the East Coast Main Line route
  • via Sheffield: the extension of HS2 services from Sheffield
  • via Manchester; the extension of HS2 services from Manchester assuming Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) infrastructure and the HS2 Phase 2b Western Leg as set out in the High-Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill, including a new high-speed surface station at Manchester Piccadilly
  • via Erewash: with upgrades and electrification to the Erewash Valley and Old Road lines, as well as sections of a new line to complete a route to Leeds
  • via full Eastern Leg: completing the HS2 Eastern Leg from the East Midlands broadly, as previously scoped

The DfT adds: “During the course of the study, we intend to review the case for focusing development work on a smaller number of options taking account of evidence including costs, affordability, benefits and value for money.”

The Leeds station and area options to be assessed will include but are not limited to:

  • alterations including new platforms at the existing Leeds station
  • non-infrastructure solutions, such as dwell times and timetable changes, including possible changes to the balance of through and terminating services at Leeds and potential changes to surrounding routes and stations to enable these
  • implications of the different options to run HS2 to Leeds on the wider network, such as capacity at Sheffield station
  • opportunities for West Yorkshire mass transit to release capacity at Leeds

The route of the full Eastern leg of HS2 will remain until the government is in a position to definitively confirm any alternative choice or whether any part of the existing safeguarded route is still needed under any revised plans.

The DfT expects the study to take two years and be completed in 2025.

The government reaffirms its commitment, made in the IRP, to upgrade and electrify the line between Bradford Interchange and Leeds.

Northern Powerhouse Partnership chief executive Henri Murison said: “Following many years of analysis and engagement with government, the business community were disappointed by the government’s decision to cut the Eastern Leg of HS2.

“Not all the options considered in this review are in the best interests of Leeds or the wider North. Work published by councils along the route has shown there is no journey time saving to Leeds by taking a circuitous route via Newark.

“This on its own will not deliver the much-needed Northern Powerhouse Rail improvements in capacity and frequency to Sheffield.”

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Mason said: “We must prioritise connections between Leeds and Sheffield for Northern Powerhouse Rail, a new line to Stourton Junction as well as a T-shaped station to give Leeds the additional capacity the North requires.

“Having worked on bringing HS2 to Yorkshire for many years, a two-year delay so long after the Integrated Rail Plan promised, this review is creating unnecessary uncertainty and deterring private investment including in Leeds City Centre.”

Midlands Connect CEO Maria Machancoses said: “We welcome the release of the much awaited terms of reference for the HS2 review up to Leeds.

“Midlands Connect remains unanimous on the enormous economic, social and environmental benefits associated with getting HS2 connections from the Midlands to the North.

“We will now seek to be actively involved in the next stages of development ensuring as part of the study, consideration is given to our proposals for improved services from the East Midlands to Leeds and beyond.”

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  1. Philip Alexander

    Errr, is this a joke? First there was an eastern leg to Leeds which I assume must have had a business case to support it (don’t laugh). Then the government cancelled it (quite rightly) because the whole premise of HS2 is flawed. Now they are going to fund (no doubt at huge expense) a study to see how to link HS2 to Leeds. Excuse me for being a bit thick, but if there was a plan to link it to Leeds in the first place, why does government need another expensive study to tell it what it already ought to know? That is, the Benefit/Cost ratio (BCR) is drastically negative indicating the whole project should never be built. I suppose this government thinks that we’re all so stupid that by lobbing another £50 million for a study it makes it look like they are re-considering (presumably to try to hold up the Northern vote at the next GE). Whereas it must be obvious to anybody with a pocket calculator to re-run the numbers from the first business case, this time with proper construction cost estimates and realistic passenger numbers, it will be a non-starter. The cynicism of politicians knows no bounds. Just that £50 million on a new study could fund some really needed infrastructure somewhere, but they sprinkle it around as if it grows on trees.

  2. Alistair Lenczner

    Want to get to Leeds via HS2 from London or Birmingham? Simple: take HS2 to Manchester and continue on Leeds (and York, Newcastle etc.) via a new Trans-Pennine High Speed Line used both by Norther Powerhouse Rail and HS2 trains. Manchester HS2 station should obviously be a through station. This is the most cost-effective solution and means that a single trains can serve both Manchester and Leeds, perhaps with 4tph.

  3. Duncan Froggatt

    Alas the DfT are asking the wrong question. It should not be how to connect HS2 to Leeds but how to provide fast, frequent, reliable and sustainable services between all the major regional centres in the north and connect to the rest of the country. Completion of the electrification of the Midland Mainline to Sheffield and beyond would go a long way to the latter. Targeted local route improvements or replacements the former.

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