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ACE News

18 NOV 2021


Login now to access your exclusive member-only briefing exploring the major rail strategy for the Midlands and the North

The long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands was published today. Previewed last weekend, the broad brushstrokes were trialled in the media, with the key takeaway that both Northern Powerhouse Rail and the eastern leg of HS2 have been paired back.

This kickstarted four days of questioning and criticism from various affected MPs, northern cities and regional bodies. All of this continued today as it was confirmed that the two major investment pledges – intrinsically linked to the Government’s levelling up agenda had indeed been rolled back.

In response to detractors, the Government will claim that at £96 billion it presents the biggest investment in public railways – although it must be said that much of that figure has already been announced.

Putting aside the political implications of today’s announcements, the Plan will also raise a number of questions from a technical perspective, including over the long-term capacity constraints of the rail network. However, it is clear that thanks to a number of smaller projects and programmes to upgrade and electrify, there will be plenty of opportunities for members to engage with over the coming years.

To help you digest these announcements, we have produced an exclusive member-only briefing on the Integrated Rail Plan. Available to anyone who works for an ACE member, simply login or register with your work email to access. Please scroll to the end of this page.

ACE Reaction... 

Andy Bell, director at Ramboll in the UK, and chair of ACE’s transport group commented on the Plan’s publication:

“Just 18 months ago the Prime Minister told Parliament in a statement following the Oakervee review, that it ‘does not make any sense’ to build Northern Powerhouse Rail without HS2 and the Government’s strategy was to do both ‘simultaneously’. Clearly the pandemic has strained public finances since then, but another change of approach does not help an engineering sector scaling up skills and resources – at a time of global demand for rail expertise – around what appeared to be clear commitments and pledges.

“The priority now must be to make the new approach deliver for both society and the Net Zero economy we must build. This means ensuring that the schemes that do go ahead increase rail freight capacity and encourage people out of cars, while also ensuring that they are designed as part of broader place-based regeneration strategies. With the change from Network Rail to GB Rail another potential complicating factor, ensuring a coherent and dependable pipeline of work for efficient rail investment needs to be a priority for the Department for Transport.”

ACE’s comments were picked up by a range of industry outlets including: Rail Business Daily, Rail Insider, New Civil Engineer, Building, Construction News, Construction Enquirer and Construction Index.


Integrated Rail Plan

November 2021

Exploring the major rail strategy for the North and Midlands.