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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Government announces £96 billion Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands

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The government has today announced its Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands – a £96 billion plan that outlines how major rail projects will be delivered.

The plan brings together the HS2, Northern Powerhouse, and Midlands Rail Hub projects, in an effort to accelerate improvements to the rail network by up to 10 years.

Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, told the House of Commons that the money is five times that invested in Crossrail and 10 times the cost of the Olympics. “We are about to embark on one of the biggest single acts of levelling up of any government in history,” he said.

The Plan will see the government build three new high-speed lines including: HS2 from Crewe to Manchester; HS2 from the West Midlands to East Midlands Parkway, enabling HS2 trains to join existing lines to serve Nottingham and Derby city centres; and a new high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Yorkshire, as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The Plan will also see the electrification and/or upgrade of three existing main lines including: the Transpennine Main Line between Manchester, Leeds and York; the Midland Main Line between London St Pancras, the East Midlands, and Sheffield; and upgrading and improving line speeds on the East Coast Main Line.

The Plan will deliver “better journeys to more people across the North and the Midlands, similar to or more quickly than under earlier plans,” says the Department for Transport.

There are plenty of positives to take from this new plan, but it has come under fire from some quarters.

The government has now officially scrapped the Leeds leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line as part of the new package, arguing that upgrades to the existing network will deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. The line between the East Midlands and Leeds has been axed and HS2 trains will reach Leeds on existing routes.

The proposed new Trans-Pennine rail route between Manchester and Leeds has also been scaled back and the route will now be a combination of new track and enhancements to existing infrastructure.

Critics have accused the government of breaking investment promises.

MPs and regional business leaders have said that a high-speed line beyond Manchester is vital to the economic growth of the Midlands and the North. Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said it was “the betrayal of trust, the betrayal of promises and the betrayal of investment in the north of England and the Midlands deserve”.

Additionally, by scaling down HS2, as some see it, the government has been accused of shirking on its commitment to move freight from the roads onto rail and walking back on commitments it made at COP26.

The Integrated Rail Plan can be viewed in full at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/integrated-rail-plan-for-the-north-and-the-midlands

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