Leaders ask for HS2 East “Green Light” given critical role in UK rail freight future

Jul 26, 2021

A cross-party letter has been sent to the Prime Minister by leaders in the North and Midlands “calling for the Government to publish an Integrated Rail Plan which recognises freight’s vital role in local, regional and national economies by committing to the delivery of the Eastern Leg of HS2”.

The joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson comes from Cllr Ben Bradley MP, Conservative Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and MP for Mansfield, and Cllr James Lewis, Labour Leader of Leeds City Council. Supported by MPs across Yorkshire, the East Midlands and the North East, it asks the Government to “give HS2 East the green light to move to the delivery and implementation stage as soon as possible”.

The letter explains that “rail freight is vital to the eastern regions” and describes HS2 as “the best opportunity to create a substantial increase in capacity for rail freight in the UK”. The two leaders stress the importance that freight, transport and logistics play in the national economy and recent challenges, explaining how:

  • The rail freight sector carries over £30 billion worth of goods per year, with the industry contributing £870 million per annum to the UK economy
  • Half as many freight trains now use the rail network compared to 15 years ago
  • Critical pinchpoints from the East Midlands to Newcastle currently constrain conventional network at capacity.

As passenger numbers begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, providing increased capacity and capability for rail freight will be just as important. The letter explains the environmental and traffic congestion impacts due to lack of UK freight capacity:

  • The entire HS2 network will create space on the existing rail network for up to 144 extra freight trains every day, with each freight train taking up to 76 HGVs off the road (potentially up to around 3.9 million journeys in total).
  • Rail freight uses 76% less carbon compared with the equivalent road movement, which is especially important as Net Zero regulations compel businesses to reduce their carbon footprint.

Although the benefits of this will be felt across the country, there would be an extremely positive impact across the North and the Midlands where our industries have such a significant reliance on freight, transport and logistics.

The Eastern Leg of HS2 is pivotal by creating additional capacity on our existing routes to better connect supply chains, support the economic recovery and our efforts to ‘build back better’, while enabling net zero carbon targets to be achieved.


Cllr Ben Bradley MP

Commenting on the letter, Cllr Ben Bradley MP, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and MP for Mansfield, said:

“The passenger benefits to signing off the eastern leg are well known but, for Nottinghamshire and the whole region, our industry also relies on freight, logistics and transport. Taking lorries off the road and removing bottlenecks that cost business many millions whilst significantly increasing freight capacity will deliver positive gains for the region and further boost local assets from the East Midlands Gateway to the new Inland Freeport. HS2 East is more than a railway line; it is fundamental to our vision for levelling up communities throughout our country. That is why we are asking Government to publish an Integrated Rail Plan that recognises freight’s vital role so in the Midlands and across the North we can get on with the job.”

Cllr James Lewis, Leader of Leeds City Council

Cllr James Lewis, Leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“The Industrial Revolution was led from Leeds and the North of England by exporting our goods to Britain and the world. Rail freight adds £870 million a year to the economy but today track congestion restricts freight and passenger services, and is pushing millions of unnecessary HGV journeys on to our busy roads. That is why we ask the Prime Minister again to give the green light to the eastern leg of HS2 that will cut carbon and increase freight by rail across the whole UK.”