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Johnson accused of betraying northern England after scrapping rail plans.

Boris Johnson has been accused of betraying the north of England after the prime minister scrapped a plan for a high-speed rail link between London and Leeds and scaled back other plans for improving connectivity in the region.

The Conservative government said the eastern leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line would not be built and that trains between the east midlands and Leeds would run on existing routes.

Plans for a new, fast link from Manchester to Leeds via Bradford have also been shelved but transport secretary Grant Schapps said there would be an “ambitious and unparalleled programme” to overhaul the existing network in the north of England. Labour leader Keir Starmer said the prime minister’s abandonment of his manifesto pledge to extend HS2 to Leeds showed he was not committed to levelling up the different parts of the country.

“This was the first test of levelling up and the government has completely failed and let down everybody in the north. You can’t believe a word the prime minister says,” he said.

The government has promised to spend £96 billion on improving rail links in the region but Mr Starmer said that much of that money had already been spent. He welcomed the promise of improved journey times between some towns and cities but said it was not enough.

“If you don’t have a new line, you don’t sort out capacity. And that is the biggest problem that we’ve got across the north. So, that is, I’m afraid just the tactics of trying to ensure that the focus isn’t on what’s really happened here, which is the breaking of two very, very important pledges. If you can’t level up in Bradford, then the whole levelling-up agenda is seen for what it really is, which is just a slogan,” he said.

Short-changed

Conservative backbenchers also criticised the government’s decision, with Robbie Moore, MP for Keighley in Bradford, saying his district had been 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,” he said.

Mr Johnson dismissed as “total rubbish” claims that he had broken his promises to the north of England, saying his new plan would bring improvements more quickly.

“We’re trebling capacity between Liverpool and Manchester. And, of course, there are going to be people who, you know, always want everything at once. And there are lots of people who’ll say, ‘Look, what we should do is carve huge new railways through virgin territory, smashing through unspoilt countryside and villages, and do it all at once’.

“The problem with that is those extra high-speed lines take decades and they don’t deliver the commuter benefits that I’m talking about. We will eventually do them,” he told Channel 4 News.

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