England’s northern regional leaders have called on the UK government to urgently 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’s also 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 seen as a key pillar of the levelling-up agenda. It’s anticipated to detail the level of infrastructure spend over the coming decades; how major projects will integrate; and when and how they’ll 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, boosting the region’s economy to aid recovery from the pandemic. and helping cut carbon emissions.
Tim Wood, interim chief executive at Transport for the North, said: “It’s now critical that the government publish the Integrated Rail Plan so the north can plan with certainty around the railway investment that will be delivered. 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.
“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.
Tim 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. It will not only set the long-term trajectory for rail spending, but hopefully address the short and medium-term projects we need to tackle congestion today. We urge the government to prioritise its publication so that work can progress on delivering the major components of a northern railway fit for the next century.”
The calls were backed by northern regional leaders including mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, mayor of Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis, mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin, councillor Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, and councillor Daren Hale, leader of Hull City Council.
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “It is worrying that 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.
“Ultimately, if the government is serious about levelling up, then the IRP cannot allow the ambitions of Greater Manchester and the rest of the north to be downgraded.”