UK Government seeks to squash fears rail upgrades won’t be delivered in full
More is set to be revealed about plans to “level-up” UK rail infrastructure but fears grow that it could be bad news for the North of England – sparking calls to deliver HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse in full. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is set to unveil his Spending Review on October 27 which is rumoured to include the Integrated Rail Plan. The anticipated Integrated Rail Plan provides detail on how projects like the Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 will materialise.
Transport for the North have been calling on the UK Government to publish the plans as they say planning and investment in the region’s rail infrastructure is “long overdue.” High Speed 2 (HS2) is a planned rail service linking London and the Midlands to Scotland and the North. It takes fast trains off the existing railway lines and provides them a dedicated track for faster journeys and is hailed as a boost to the economy in communities it covers.
A dedicated line will call through Carlisle on route to Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Northern Powerhouse Rail is a new rail network touted as the sector’s biggest investment since the Industrial Revolution. It is designed to provide an increased rail capacity for the North, boosting the region’s economy as a result.
However recent reports have suggested that the Integrated Rail Plan will not be as promised with a stripped-back version of the rail upgrades promised. Councillor Louise Gittins, Transport for the North’s interim chair said: “These reports are disappointing. I hope that this is not the case, as the Prime Minister said only last week in Manchester that transport is “one of the supreme leveller-uppers” and he was very clear in saying he “will do Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“But to truly deliver on these words it means: the full NPR network that properly connects the North East to the North West; serious investment in a Northern Infrastructure Pipeline to upgrade local areas for the 21st century; and a genuine devolution offer as set out in our Northern Transport Charter with a devolved Northern Budget and with powers for Northern leaders to create the same level of transport systems that people in London and the South East take for granted. “The work we have done as TfN shows the value of that investment and the importance of it for ‘levelling up’. It was very encouraging to see that the Prime Minister believes he has a mandate for transformational change, and he wants transport to be the cornerstone of his levelling up agenda, and therefore the Comprehensive Spending Review this month gives the prime opportunity for his Government to set this out in full.
“Anything less will not only be “bad news” for people living in the North, but it will be shirking one of the biggest decisions for our country in a generation.” The UK Government refused to be drawn on the rumours. A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b and other transformational projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the North and Midlands need and deserve.”
They said that the DofT “remains absolutely committed” to the NPR programme.
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