New polling of Yorkshire shows that the decision to cancel HS2’s Eastern Leg has undermined the county’s faith in the government’s levelling up agenda, with 42% of those with an opinion opposed to the scheme’s curtailment, as opposed to just 27% who are in support.
The research, undertaken by Opinium on behalf of the High Speed Rail Group (HSRG), was commissioned following the publication of the government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) which confirmed that the full Eastern Leg will not proceed to Leeds as planned.
Opinium surveyed 1,008 adults across Yorkshire to understand their attitudes towards the proposed cancellation of parts of the new HS2 line. They conducted the fieldwork from 27 January- 1 February 2022 and asked a range of questions to better understand people’s reactions to the announcement and how it has affected their views towards the government and their levelling up agenda.
Of those to express a view, 42% are against the HS2 Eastern Leg cancellation. Over four in ten, 41%, think the decision shows the government cares less about levelling up, demonstrating the political implications of the curtailment as the government attempts to resuscitate its flagship policy. Indeed, polling shows that more than four times as many people see the Conservatives less favourably as those who see them more favourably, because of the decision.
This is reflective of a wider belief amongst Yorkshire’s residents that their region does not receive adequate transport investment. Three-quarters (76%) think they receive less than their fair share compared to London, two-thirds (66%) in comparison to Southern England and 57% compared to the UK as a whole. Whilst over 9 in 10 (92%) say that transport is important to improving the economy and prosperity of Yorkshire. Further emphasising its importance, when asked what three areas of infrastructure should be prioritised in the levelling-up of Yorkshire, transport was most popular with two-thirds (66%) choosing this option.
Polling also shows that the Eastern Leg curtailment will have implications on the zero carbon agenda. HS2 journey times would nearly double the number who would use rail for Leeds-Birmingham journeys, jumping from 36% to 60%. The HSRG claims this clearly demonstrates the important role that high speed rail has to play in facilitating modal shift from more polluting forms of travel to clean, green rail.
Commenting on the polling, a High Speed Rail Group spokesperson said: “Our polling shows just how far reaching the implications of the government’s decision to curtail HS2 before it reaches Leeds are, going beyond transport to affect agendas from levelling up to net zero. It sends a clear message to the government that without significant investment in national transport, and high speed rail specifically, they are at risk of falling short on their promise of levelling up amongst the public.
“High speed rail is one of the best ways to drive meaningful levelling up outside of the south east, and as such we call on the government to go beyond HS2 to invest in a truly national high speed rail network.”