Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

The biggest ever public investment in Britain’s rail network is announced by the Government today (Thursday 18 November), with £96 billion to deliver faster and better journeys to more people across the North and the Midlands, similar to or more quickly than under earlier plans.

Transforming connectivity, the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) published today will transform both east–west and north–south links, building three new high-speed lines, improving rail services to and between the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire and the North West, including:

  • Northern Powerhouse Rail will connect Leeds and Manchester in 33 minutes, down from 55 minutes now.
  • HS2 East will run direct from central Nottingham to Birmingham in 26 minutes, down from 1 hour 14 minutes now, and from central Nottingham to London in 57 minutes. HS2 will also run from London to Sheffield in 1 hour 27 minutes.
  • HS2 West will run from London to Manchester in 1 hour 11 minutes and from Birmingham to Manchester in 41-51 minutes, compared to 86 minutes today.

To most destinations on the HS2 and NPR core routes, both from London and across the Pennines, journey times will be the same as, similar to or faster than the previous proposals – with improvements being delivered for communities across the Midlands and North up to a decade sooner and to more places. Capacity on key routes will also double or treble under the plans.

Advertisements

Under earlier plans, smaller towns on existing main lines such as Doncaster, Grantham, Huddersfield, Wakefield, and Leicester would have seen little improvement, and in some cases even their services cut back. The IRP will protect and improve these crucial links and will deliver improvements with far less disruption to local communities. And on both local train lines and inter-city links, rail passengers will benefit from tangible changes, seeing more seats, shorter journeys, and more frequent and more reliable services.

As well as the new high-speed lines, the IRP fully electrifies and upgrades two diesel main lines – the Midlands Main Line and the Transpennine Main Line – as well as upgrading a third main line – the East Coast – with higher speeds, power improvements and digital signalling to slash journey times.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“My mission is to level up opportunity across our country, which is why we’re making train journeys faster and more reliable through the biggest ever public investment in our rail network.

“This is because better rail connections are essential for growing local economies and businesses, and our Integrated Rail Plan will deliver better services to more people, more quickly.

“Levelling up has to be for everyone, not just the biggest cities. That’s why we will transform transport links between our biggest cities and smaller towns, ensuring we improve both long-distance and vital local services and enabling people to move more freely across the country wherever they are.” 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“Our plan is ambitious, deliverable and backed by the largest single government investment ever made in our rail network. It will deliver punctual, frequent and reliable journeys for everyone, wherever they live.  

“Just as the Victorians gave this country our railways nearly 200 years ago, this Integrated Rail Plan will create a modern, expanded railway fit for today and future generations. Significant improvements will be delivered rapidly, bringing communities closer together, creating jobs and making places more attractive to business, and in doing so, re-balancing opportunity across the country. 

“Our plans go above and beyond the initial ambitions of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail by delivering benefits for communities no matter their size, right across the North and Midlands, up to 10 to 15 years earlier.” 

Advertisements

For Northern Powerhouse Rail, we have chosen the first of the options put forward by Transport for the North in 2019, a mixture of newbuild high-speed and upgraded conventional line. TfN’s options for full newbuild high-speed line were carefully studied but would have made journeys between Leeds and Manchester only four minutes faster at a cost of an extra £18 billion, and would have taken up to a decade longer to deliver.  

The package of investment confirms:

Three new high-speed lines, covering 110 miles:

  • Complete HS2 from Crewe to Manchester, with new stations at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly. 
  • A new high-speed line between Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway. Trains will continue to central Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield on an upgraded and electrified Midland Main Line.
  • Delivering NPR through a new high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden in Yorkshireas in the first of the options originally put forward by Transport for the North in 2019. 
  • A study to look at the best way to take HS2 trains to Leeds, including capacity at Leeds Station. 

The upgrading or electrification of three existing lines:

  • The complete electrification of the Midland Main Line from London to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.
  • A programme of rapid upgrades to the East Coast Main Line to the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East. Journey times will be up to 25 minutes faster than now.
  • Full electrification and upgrade of the Transpennine Main Line between Manchester, Leeds and York as part of delivering the first phase of NPR, installing full digital signalling, with longer sections of three and four-tracking to allow fast trains to overtake stopping services, and increase through passenger services by 20%. An additional £625m in new funding has been confirmed today to progress the Transpennine Route Upgrade.
  • In total, electrification of more than 180 miles of route, meaning that 75% of the country’s main lines will be electric, to meet the ambition of removing all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040, as part of our commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050.

The freeing up of money to improve local services and integrate them properly with HS2 and NPR:

  • new mass transit system for Leeds and West Yorkshire, righting the wrong that Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without one. There will be £200 million of immediate funding to plan the project and start building it, and we commit to supporting West Yorkshire Combined Authority over the long term to ensure that this time, it gets done.
  • Separately, we could halve journey times between Bradford and Leeds, to be as low as 12 minutes.
  • Greater connectivity benefits between the West and East Midlandsin comparison to previous plan and progressing work on options to complete Midlands Rail Hub, dramatically increasing local services through central Birmingham and across the Midlands and connecting them better to HS2.
  • Investment to deliver a programme of fares, ticketing and retail reform including the roll out of contactless pay-as-you-go ticketing at commuter stations in the Midlands and North, ending ticket queues and tackling confusion about fares by automatically ensuring that you are charged the best price. The Government will also drive towards rolling out digital ticketing across the whole network.

The new plans, using a mixture of new-build high-speed line and upgraded conventional lines, were drawn up after it became clear that the full HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail schemes as originally proposed would have cost up to £185 billion and not entered service until the early to mid-2040s.  

Advertisements

Building on the expert findings of wide-ranging internal and independent analysis, including from the National Infrastructure Commission, the plan will deliver better outcomes for passengers in a faster and more efficient way than under original plans for the schemes.  

However despite the plan some people are not happy, it seems despite the amount of money pumped into the Integrated Rail Plan not enough has been done to ensure the rail services in the North gets the investment it needs to update rail lines and other infrastructure to bring it up to date.

A letter addressed to the Prime Minister from political and business leaders has been sent which you can see below:


Dear Prime Minister,  

As political and business leaders representing the North of England, we are writing to express our concerns over today’s announcement of the Integrated Rail Plan. 

We are concerned that by omitting both the Eastern Leg of HS2 and the new Leeds to Liverpool route of Northern Powerhouse Rail – with stops in central Bradford, Manchester and Warrington – you have failed to fully consider the advice of independent rail reviews, the ambitions of Northern leaders, and the appeals of our businesses.  

Your decision, contrary to your ambition to “level-up” the North, runs the risk of holding back our regional economies and compromising our plans to cut carbon emissions, just days after we hosted COP-26. 

People across the North were excited by your promise of new rail infrastructure and the benefits of a better-connected North – not only quicker travel times but more jobs and homes, new investment and regeneration, and better opportunities for our young people.  

In our view, this pared-back plan will not unlock the full potential of the North of England. 

These decisions go beyond party politics and indeed our generation. They are critical to the future of the North for the next 100 years and more. Given this, we believe elected representatives in all parts of the country should have an opportunity to consider whether your proposals represent a fair deal for their constituents before they are finalised.  

We are therefore asking you to call a free vote on these plans in Parliament. We look forward to your response. 

Yours Sincerely

Tracy Brabin 
Mayor of West Yorkshire

Andy Burnham 
Mayor of Greater Manchester

Jamie Driscoll 
Mayor of the North of Tyne 

Dan Jarvis 
Mayor of South Yorkshire

Steve Rotheram 
Mayor of the Liverpool City Region

Joanne Anderson
Mayor of Liverpool 

Cllr David Baines 
Leader of St Helens Council 

Paula Basnett
Leader of Wirral Chamber of Commerce 

Cllr Martyn Cox
Leader of Bolton Council

Paul Dennett
City Mayor of Salford

Cllr Neil Emmott
Leader of Rochdale Council

Cllr Louise Gitting
Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council

Cllr Daren Hale
Leader of Hull City Council

Asif Hamid MBE
Chair of the Liverpool City Region LEP

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe
Leader of Bradford Council

Cllr Keith Little
Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Cumbria County Council

Cllr Ian Maher
Leader of Sefton Council 

Lesley Martin-Wright
Chief Executive of Knowsley Chamber of Commerce 

Tracy Mawson
Leader of St Helens Chamber of Commerce 

Cllr David Molyneux
Leader of Wigan Council

Councillor Graham Morgan
Leader of Knowsley Council 

Cllr Eamonn O’Brien
Leader of Bury Council

Rachael Owen
Chief Executive of Halton Chamber of Commerce

Cllr Shabir Pandor
Leader of Kirklees Council

Cllr Arooj Shah
Leader of Oldham Council

Cllr Brenda Warrington
Leader of Tameside Council

Cllr Andrew Western
Leader of Trafford Council

Cllr Mike Wharton
Leader of Halton Council 

Cllr Janette Williamson
Leader of Wirral Council 

Cllr Elise Wilson
Leader of Stockport Council

Sir Richard Leese
Leader of Manchester City Council