Government accused of ‘misleading’ public over HS2 alternative

The Government has been accused of “misleading” the public after an apparent pledge to reopen a railway line was dropped 24 hours later.

Documents published on Wednesday revealed that the Leamside Line in Northumberland would be reopened using money saved by axing HS2 north of Birmingham, the Northern Echo reported.

According to the newspaper, a document listing benefits to the North East stated: “The Leamside Line, closed in 1964, will also be reopened.”

But all reference to the line appeared to have been removed by Thursday.

Transport minister Richard Holden told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the Government was now only “committed to looking into it”.

Henri Murison, chief executive of business group the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter: “Yesterday we were led to believe this was happening – so I welcomed it.

“Misleading the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and northern public (is) not a good way to build trust.

“I’m writing to (rail minister) Huw Merriman today and will seek clarification urgently.

“The Leamside Line is integral to Northern Powerhouse Rail and must be built in full.”

It was closed as part of the Beeching cuts.

A Government spokesperson said: “We are funding a new Ferryhill Station, and providing around £1.8 billion funding to the North East – an investment only possible due to the billions of pounds redirected from HS2.

“This investment will empower local leaders to fund the transport projects that matter most to their communities – including funding for the Leamside Line if they choose to.

“We are working closely with Transport North East as they work on the business case for the re-opening of the Leamside Line.”

Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, said: “‘It’s a clear demonstration that the PM’s speech was his usual spin and not a long-term plan for Britain.

“Voters in the North East aren’t fools and will see through his cynical attempt to give the impression that he and the Conservatives care about the North.”

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