Train on the tracks

Rail industry reacts to the Government's Integrated Rail Plan

The Government has today announced its Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) aimed at transforming rail links across the North and Midlands.

As part of the IRP the Government is set to invest £96bn to modernise the rail network.

The Government announced that this will mean passengers will reap the benefits of modernisation ten years sooner than was originally expected.

The IRP will focus on local services as well as high-speed links.

The abandoning of the Eastern leg of HS2 up to Leeds has caused much disgruntlement among Northern and Midland leaders.

However, the Government has responded by announcing a new route between Manchester and Warrington which will end at the western border of Yorkshire.

Rail industry leaders have also reacted to the publication of the Government’s IRP.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA) commented on what the publication of the IRP will mean for the rail industry as a whole.

Mr Caplan said: “The railway industry will welcome the end of the uncertainty surrounding the Integrated Rail Plan, now it’s been published.

“Whether individual schemes have been scrapped, amended or given the green light, at least we all now know the Government’s thinking.

“It is positive to see confirmation of some local and regional rail projects within the Plan - throughout the North and Midlands - and the speed at which the Government aims to deliver them.

“However, it is difficult to see this IRP as anything other than a piecemeal approach to national strategic railway infrastructure development, given the abandonment of HS2 Eastern Leg and the scaling back of Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“We must of course all recognise the short to medium term impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the UK and its economy.

“Yet it was only last year that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Cabinet publicly supported delivering the HS2 scheme in full, given the capacity, connectivity and economic benefits it brings.

“How certain can the railway industry be that the IRP will actually be delivered, given what’s happened to the previous plan?

“Whatever schemes do proceed, RIA and our members will work with the Government to take forward whichever projects do go ahead.”

Speaking on Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midland Mainline and TransPennine Route electrification Mr Caplan added: “It is worrying that this scheme has been scaled back.

“Northern Powerhouse Rail will be essential in connecting up towns and cities in the North of England, alongside delivery of the Transpennine Route Upgrade.

“[However] It is positive to see new electrification going ahead after a number of projects were halted in 2017.

“Electrifying the rail network is not only good for passengers and freight, providing more reliable and faster services to diesel trains.

“[It is] also essential to decarbonising the network by 2050.”

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