THE pandemic could hardly have come at a worse time for the HS2 rail line with construction, despite the environmental controversy, just beginning.

We will emerge from the pandemic into a very different world, in which the Government is going to have to make huge savings. With a price tag approaching £100bn, HS2 is bound to be looked at, especially as how rail usage returns is unknown: how many former travellers will prefer to stay at home and Zoom for free?

But before the pandemic, the East Coast Main Line was at full capacity, and HS2 was the only show in town to increase rail capacity – by taking trains up the eastern HS2 line to Leeds, it will free up space on the main line for the North-East to use.

Post-pandemic, we are seeing those capacity issues still affect us as the timetable is rejigged, with stations like Darlington and Middlesbrough due to lose out, but no additional trains brought online because there is no room.

And post-pandemic, we are still going to have to tackle issues of climate change, and rail transport is much cleaner than road transport but, because of those capacity issues, freight is forced onto lorries as it cannot get on the rails.

Cross-party politicians have written to the Prime Minister urging him not to forget the East HS2 leg. We cannot abandon construction of the line at this stage; we have, therefore, to ensure that as many places as possible benefit from HS2. The North-East has to have the best connections so we support the moves to keep the Government on track.