Transport for the North (TfN) have outlined the importance of pushing forward with Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and their inability to continue to wait for the publication of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan.
The submission of the NPR business case has been delayed, at the request of the Department for Transport, until the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan, which is expected to set out the scope, funding and delivery mechanisms for major rail projects including HS2 and NPR.
In the interim, continued work has been carried out on the NPR plans, with TfN having been able to successfully identify a number of areas of significant cost reduction equalling up to £9bn.
According to pre-meeting documentation, these included “securing a £4bn cost reduction on initial assured costs by challenging the pricing methodology and land and property requirements” while “robust benchmarking and challenge on design and the methodology of calculating possessions and isolations had identified potential for a further £5bn reduction in costs”.
Further rail investment and electrification, and its importance to the regional efforts to tackle climate change, were also discussed by the TfN board, alongside the opportunities to create jobs and “unleash the North’s economic potential”.
Speaking following the meeting Tim Wood, Interim Chief Executive at Transport for the North, said: “The North has already set out its vision for the future in a transport strategy that all of our leaders are signed up to.
“Now we need clarity and firm commitment from Government on delivering that strategy, which we expect to come in the form of the Integrated Rail Plan.
“We’ve set out our clear priorities to create a Green Economic Revolution in the North and our railways – including HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – are at the heart of that vision.
“We’re now working with Government and the national agencies, such as Network Rail, to ensure that the investment programmes we put forward are committed to and then delivered alongside TfN.”
TfN’s board also outlined that leaders in the North and TfN - as the Government’s statutory partner on transport in the region - will have “an integral role” in overseeing the railways.
Members were reassured by representatives from the Department for Transport and Network Rail, who said that work to establish Great British Railways (GBR) in shadow format in the next year will closely involve TfN and regional leaders.
“As the Government’s statutory partner on strategic transport for the North, not only are we committed to making the Williams-Shapps plan work, we are uniquely placed to make this happen quickly – to the benefit of our residents and businesses.
“The national approach must not be a missed opportunity for further devolution, giving the North’s leaders greater oversight of services and infrastructure investment.
“We look forward to working closely with Government to ensure local and regional leaders are at the core of reform of our railways.”