Government urged to publish rail investment plan for the North

Northern leaders want the Government to publish a long-term plan for the region’s railways, to give essential certainty on investment and delivery of major projects.

Through Transport for the North (TfN), the region’s political and business leaders say the Government must publish the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) for the North and Midlands as soon as possible to avoid delays to delivery of schemes including Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 in the North.

They say it is critical to address congested hotspots on the North’s rail network today, as well as addressing the short and medium-term projects such as the Transpennine Route Upgrade.

The IRP is anticipated to detail the level of infrastructure spend over the coming decades; how major projects will integrate; and when and how they will be delivered.

TfN says the IRP is needed now to give confidence that promised schemes will be delivered, in turn creating thousands of new jobs and boosting the region’s economy.

Tim Wood, interim chief executive at TfN, said: “We can’t risk delays to Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 arriving in the North and the economic boom both would bring – including up to 74,000 new jobs with NPR.

Tim Wood

“Whilst the Government has committed to delivering the projects, there are question marks hanging over the detail until the Integrated Rail Plan is unveiled.

“As a co-client of Northern Powerhouse Rail with the Department for Transport, Transport for the North is ready to work closely with Government to get spades in the ground on the project as soon as possible.”

Earlier this year, the TfN Board reluctantly agreed to delay submission of the business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail until the IRP was published.

The Northern Powerhouse Rail network, including a mix of new and upgraded lines connecting the North’s towns and cities, is expected to:

  • Contribute £14.4bn in annual gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy by 2060
  • Create up to 74,000 new jobs in the North by 2060
  • Take the equivalent of 58,000 cars off the road

Wood added: “The IRP is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-write the story of the North’s railways and address the legacy – and resulting problems – of underinvestment we’ve seen for decades.”

He was backed by other TfN board members, including Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who said: “It is worrying the Government has yet to bring forward their Integrated Rail Plan, as it is beyond time that major investments like Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 begin to be delivered here in the North.

“In Greater Manchester we also need urgent progress on plans for HS2-NPR stations at Piccadilly and Manchester Airport to be fully integrated with our local transport network.”

Mayor of Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis, said: “If we are to level up the North then better rail connections between our towns and cities is vital.

“But we can’t get on with delivering those improvements until we have the full picture of the Government plans in the Integrated Rail Plan.

“We’ve now been waiting for six months, wasting time and holding up our efforts to renew our region and create jobs as we emerge from the pandemic. This lack of clarity also prolongs the uncertainty for businesses and people living on the proposed HS2 route.”

Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, said: “We need the Government to urgently publish the Integrated Rail Plan and commit to the Transpennine upgrade in full, Northern Powerhouse Rail with a city centre station in Bradford, the HS2 eastern leg on the same timetable as the western leg, and regional electrification.

Tracy Brabin

“This investment is essential to providing the rail services our communities need as part of a joined-up West Yorkshire transport system that connect people to jobs, education and opportunities.”

Councillor Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “Our business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail is critical for unlocking investments and business growth across west Cheshire.

“Combined with Growth Track 360 connections with North Wales, rail improvements play a major part in the future of our region, supporting jobs and playing a key role in tackling the climate emergency and wider determinants of health through cleaner, more accessible transport.”

And Cllr Daren Hale, leader of Hull City Council, added: “The Integrated Rail Plan is critical to our levelling up plans in the north.

“The electrification of Hull/Selby and Hull/Sheffield is an integral part of a modern, integrated rail network for the North.

“We would also wish for the electrification to connect our port as part of a commitment to decarbonisation.”