Northern Powerhouse Rail: Full means full, PM told


Politicians in the north of England have called on Liz Truss to honour her pledge to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) ‘in full’, including new track and a station in Bradford.

Ms Truss, now prime minister, made the pledge twice during her campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party, although she left some observers and political opponents in doubt as to exactly what she was committing to – or when.

In a newspaper article in August, she wrote that ‘for too long…places like Yorkshire have simply not benefitted from the same growth or opportunities that London and the South East have been afforded’.

She added: ‘I am committed to building Northern Powerhouse Rail in full.'

In a letter to her this week, Lord McLoughlin, chair of Transport for the North, which has a statutory role advising the Government, pointed out that last year’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) included a version of NPR priced at £17bn, as opposed to the transport body’s plans for a network costing £43bn.

He wrote: ‘We welcomed your strong commitment to seeing Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) constructed in full. We have developed clear and agreed plans for the network, costed at £43bn, including our preferences for a mix of new lines and major upgrades as a network spanning from Liverpool in the west to Hull in the east, and from Newcastle in the north to Sheffield in the south.’

Lord McLoughlin, a former Tory transport secretary, added: ‘Confirmation in the September budget will send a clear signal to the North about the government’s intentions to reverse decisions taken in the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), including the Eastern Leg of HS2. The Transport Select Committee concluded that the proposals published in the IRP fail to achieve the long-term step change for the rail network across the North.’

In July, the then transport secretary, Grant Shapps, confirmed that the Government would spend £9bn on an expanded version of the existing Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) consisting mainly of upgrades to and electrification of existing track. Under the IRP, the TRU will be managed as the first phase of what it called ‘core’ NPR.

The IRP Core Network with Core NPR in orange

In the foreword to the IRP, the prime minister Boris Johnson wrote: TfN’s preferred option for Northern Powerhouse Rail would also have seen us spend billions upgrading the conventional line between Leeds and Manchester – and then tens of billions more, straight afterwards, building a second line between the same two places.’

The document stated: ‘We carefully examined the other options put forward by TfN, for full newbuild lines from Liverpool to Leeds via Manchester and Bradford. They would have made Manchester-Leeds journeys only four minutes faster than the option we have chosen, and cost an extra £18 billion.’

Following Ms Truss’ appointment, Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said she would ‘hold her to account’ on the pledge. West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin called on Ms Truss to ‘deliver on her pledge to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, with that vital new station in Bradford’.

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