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Ministers urged to unveil rail investment plan for the North

Words: Huw Morris
Railway tracks / iStock-624925672

The North’s transport leaders are demanding the government urgently publish its Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) to give certainty to vital investment plans for the region’s railways.

The IRP is seen as a key part of the government’s levelling-up agenda and is expected to detail the level of infrastructure spending in the coming decades, how major projects will integrate as well as when and how they will be delivered.

The leaders said the IRP must be published as soon as possible to avoid delays to crucial schemes including Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 in the North.

The IRP would also tackle congested hotspots on the North’s rail network, as well as short and medium-term projects such as the Transpennine Route Upgrade.

The leaders, who made the call as board members of sub-national body Transport for the North (TfN), said the plan is urgently needed to give confidence that promised schemes will be delivered. This would in turn create thousands of jobs, boost the region’s economy to aid recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and help cut carbon emissions.

The call was made by Greater Manchester, Sheffield City and West Yorkshire mayors Andy Burnham, Dan Jarvis and Tracy Brabin as well as Louise Gittins, who is leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council and Hull City Council leader Daren Hale. 

“We can’t risk delays to Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 arriving in the North and the economic boom both would bring,” said TfN chief executive Tim Wood. “While the government has committed to delivering the projects, there are question marks hanging over the detail until the Integrated Rail Plan is unveiled.”

Earlier this year, the TfN board reluctantly agreed to delay submitting the business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail until the IRP was published. The network, including a mix of new and upgraded lines connecting the region’s towns and cities, is expected to contribute £14.4 billion to the UK economy and create up to 74,000 jobs in the North by 2060 as well as take the equivalent of 58,000 cars off the road.

Photo | iStock