ANGER is growing among civic and business leaders following the Government's decision to scrap plans for high-speed rail links to York.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed today that the eastern leg of HS2 between the East Midlands and Leeds would not go ahead as planned.

There has been strong reaction in York and the region to the watered-down Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), with major revisions to previously announced goals.

In the House of Commons Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, argued that under the original plans the journey from Bradford to Manchester would have taken 20 minutes - but would now be more like 45.

He said there would be 'an economic price paid for generations' as a result of today's announcement.

The new proposals also water down a promise to fund the Northern Powerhouse Rail, a new high-speed rail link in the North of England, by instead focusing on upgrades to existing lines.

President of York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Laurence Beardmore, described the plan to scrap HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail links to York as 'an unwelcome hindrance to the region’s booming post-Covid recovery'.

"We steadfast believe that any such decision would, in time, come to be viewed as a significant missed opportunity for the UK to demonstrate itself as the ambitious, future-thinking, world-leading country we know ourselves to be.

“At heart, HS2 and NPR are not transport projects, they serve as levelling-up game changers.

"The point is not a faster way to get to and from London, it is a rebalancing of the UK’s economy.

"If Government is to realise their ambitions to deliver transformative change to cities like York, a city home to many outstanding public and private institutions, infrastructural investment is not an option, but a necessity."

He added: “North Yorkshire, a region championed by a hotbed of firms delivering world-leading innovations, perhaps most notably in climate-change tackling technologies, must also be served by a regional hub that is well connected."

On behalf of York and North Yorkshire Chamber, he called on the Government to reconsider 'the level of ambition shown in current plans moving forward'.

Beckie Hart, CBI Yorkshire & Humber Director, said: “High quality infrastructure is fundamental to rising living standards and levelling up the country.

“The Integrated Rail Plan is a significant investment that will go some way towards modernising our ageing rail networks and can be delivered at pace.

“But businesses across the Midlands and Northern England will be justifiably disappointed to see the goalposts have moved at the eleventh hour, and concerned that some of the areas most sorely in need of development will lose out as a result of the scaled-back plans.”

Chair of West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Amanda Beresford, said: “After 11 years of campaigning for improved rail connectivity both within and across our region, today’s announcements are extremely disappointing and will call into question just how serious this government is, on its levelling up promises.

“At their heart, HS2 and NPR are not just transport projects, they are the game-changing backbone of the levelling-up agenda when taken in the spirit of the original vision.

"These projects shouldn’t be viewed as simply a faster way to get to and from London, but an essential component to rebalancing the UK’s economy by connecting people more efficiently with the jobs and education opportunities across our region.

"It is well established that great infrastructure is the backdrop to improved productivity and accessibility. It plays a pivotal role in allowing the incredible talent that exists around our country reach its true potential.

"It must also be recognised that without effective, accessible transport for all, we will remain hamstrung in our ability to achieve our commitments to the climate change agenda, which has been widely debated in recent weeks.

“We have long argued that it is imperative that such projects are recognised as investments that will facilitate economic growth long into the future, rather than costs for the here and now. Government must recognise we are still benefitting from the Victorian infrastructure and foresight delivered nearly two centuries ago.

“HS2 offers many benefits to the region and the country as a whole. It aims to free up capacity on the existing rail network provide more reliable and frequent commuter journeys, and really importantly take more freight off our congested highways and motorways, contributing to the nation’s net-zero ambitions.

“Northern Powerhouse Rail too was set to provide significant improvements to enable faster and more frequent east-west journeys, connecting the north’s major urban centres and in turn widening access and opportunity for communities across the region.“