Northern leaders’ tell the PM scaled back rail plans ‘will hold back the North’

Political and business leaders from across the North of England have written to the PM about their concerns over today’s Integrated Rail Plan.

The letter, signed by metro mayors and local authority leaders across Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire, and West Yorkshire, said the plans risked holding back the regional economies in the region and that this “pared-back plan will not unlock the full potential of the North of England.”

The message to the PM comes after the government unveiled its £96bn Integrated Rail Plan to overhaul inter-city links across the North and Midlands.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons the overhaul will bring faster journeys up to 10 years earlier than planned.

HS2 trains were to run on a new East Midlands-Leeds high-speed line, but will now run on existing routes.

The planned HS2 eastern line to Leeds has been scrapped, with a new route from Warrington to Manchester ending at the “western border” of Yorkshire

The government says it will “study how best to take HS2 trains into Leeds”

Critics have accused the Government of breaking investment promises and not fully considering the advice of independent rail reviews, the ambitions of Northern leaders, and the appeals of its businesses.

The letter said: “Your decision, contrary to your ambition to “level-up” the North, runs the risk of holding back our regional economies and compromising our plans to cut carbon emissions, just days after we hosted COP-26.

“People across the North were excited by your promise of new rail infrastructure and the benefits of a better-connected North – not only quicker travel times but more jobs and homes, new investment and regeneration, and better opportunities for our young people.

“In our view, this pared-back plan will not unlock the full potential of the North of England.

“These decisions go beyond party politics and indeed our generation. They are critical to the future of the North for the next 100 years and more. Given this, we believe elected representatives in all parts of the country should have an opportunity to consider whether your proposals represent a fair deal for their constituents before they are finalised.

“We are therefore asking you to call a free vote on these plans in Parliament. We look forward to your response.”

The letter has been signed by the following business and civic leaders:

Tracy Brabin
Mayor of West Yorkshire

Andy Burnham
Mayor of Greater Manchester

Jamie Driscoll
Mayor of the North of Tyne 

Dan Jarvis
Mayor of South Yorkshire

Steve Rotheram
Mayor of the Liverpool City Region

Joanne Anderson
Mayor of Liverpool 

Cllr David Baines
Leader of St Helens Council 

Paula Basnett
Leader of Wirral Chamber of Commerce 

Cllr Martyn Cox
Leader of Bolton Council

Paul Dennett
City Mayor of Salford

Cllr Neil Emmott
Leader of Rochdale Council

Cllr Louise Gitting
Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council

Cllr Daren Hale
Leader of Hull City Council

Asif Hamid MBE
Chair of the Liverpool City Region LEP

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe
Leader of Bradford Council

Cllr Keith Little
Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Cumbria County Council

Cllr Ian Maher
Leader of Sefton Council 

Lesley Martin-Wright
Chief Executive of Knowsley Chamber of Commerce 

Tracy Mawson
Leader of St Helens Chamber of Commerce 

Cllr David Molyneux
Leader of Wigan Council

Councillor Graham Morgan
Leader of Knowsley Council 

Cllr Eamonn O’Brien
Leader of Bury Council

Rachael Owen
Chief Executive of Halton Chamber of Commerce

Cllr Shabir Pandor
Leader of Kirklees Council

Cllr Arooj Shah
Leader of Oldham Council

Cllr Brenda Warrington
Leader of Tameside Council

Cllr Andrew Western
Leader of Trafford Council

Cllr Mike Wharton
Leader of Halton Council 

Cllr Janette Williamson
Leader of Wirral Council 

Cllr Elise Wilson
Leader of Stockport Council

Sir Richard Leese
Leader of Manchester City Council