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DfT signals it will revisit options for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail

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The Transport Committee has welcomed the Government’s announcement that it will follow its recommendations by revisiting its decision to snub Bradford from plans to develop rail networks in the North and Midlands.

The announcement was made in the Department for Transport’s formal response to the cross-party Committee’s 2022 report on the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).

Published in 2021, the IRP comprised northern sections of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) – proposals to electrify lines and increase capacity on routes from Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle via Manchester, Sheffield, and Leeds. It also proposed upgrades for Leeds and Manchester Piccadilly stations.

Northern Powerhouse Rail

In its response to the Committee’s call for robust re-assessment of all the NPR options, DfT said an updated business case for the project, expected later this year, will include “updated analysis on a range of different network options” including the impact on communities such as Bradford.

Having controversially omitted plans for a new line through, and station in, Bradford from the 2021 IRP, DfT now says: “A re-assessment of the evidence for better connecting Bradford and the case for [building] a new station will now form part of the NPR development programme and the HS2 to Leeds Study.”

The Government also revealed that the terms of reference for a long-awaited study on how best to take HS2 trains to Leeds will be published imminently: a development the Committee had called for “urgently” in its July 2022 report. DfT said the Study could take 18 months to complete. It will also include an updated benefit-cost ratio for the Eastern leg of HS2 Phase 2b, which had been shortened to terminate at East Midlands Parkway.

Responding to the announcement Lord McLoughlin, Chair of Transport for the North, said: “This is a welcome announcement by the Government and a helpful step in the right direction. Transport for the North has long called for the initial decision of the Integrated Rail Plan to be re-examined and the evidence base re-assessed.

“The strong desire of our Board is for Northern Powerhouse Rail in full and for it to be as ambitious as possible for the North, and for that to happen there needs to be a solution that best works for Bradford.

“Transport for the North continues to work closely with Government to ensure we get to the best possible evidence-led outcome for the North.”

East Midlands

The news comes a week after businesses and political leaders in the East Midlands gathered to launch the ‘Full speed ahead: bringing high speed rail to the East Midlands’ report, which lays out an ‘overwhelming’ case to deliver high-speed rail to the East Midlands. The event was jointly hosted by Midlands Connect and Transport for the East Midlands.

The Full Speed Ahead report outlines the advantages of bringing HS2 to the East Midlands and Sheffield as laid out in the IRP. Alongside other projects such as Midlands Rail Hub and Midland Main Line electrification, the arrival of HS2 in the East Midlands will bring regional cities and towns closer to each other, as well as centres of business such as London, Birmingham, and Manchester.

Speaking at the event, Maria Machancoses, CEO of Midlands Connect, said: “The East Midlands is an area so poorly served by rail at the moment; with these proposals in place connections from North to South, and East to West, will be quicker and easier.

“The case for delivering HS2 from Birmingham to the East Midlands is overwhelming.”

Sir Peter Soulsby, Chair of Transport for East Midlands added: “The East Midlands boasts a resilient and thriving economy which is well placed to reap the benefits of major rail investment.

“With direct HS2 services to Nottingham, Derby and Chesterfield stations, coupled with the electrification of the Midland Main Line, travel times across the region will be significantly reduced and capacity enhanced.”

Read the Government’s response to the Transport Committee’s Second Report at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5803/cmselect/cmtrans/1729/report.html.

The Latest Reports from Midlands connect can be accessed at www.midlandsconnect.uk/publications/.

Image credit: istockphoto.com

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