The Government have announced today plans to assess the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) for the North and Midlands through the Transport Committee, in an essential process to ensure regional imbalances are addressed appropriately.
The IRP, according to today’s report, should be exploring alternative options that could have transformational effects on stations and city centres in key Northern cities. The IRP has a planned investment of £96bn to upgrade rail infrastructure, making it “the largest single rail investment ever made by a UK Government”, according to The Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps. Due to this high level of investment, it is integral that the plan be implemented in a manor that maximises its utility.
The Transport Committee are calling are a full analysis of the wider economic impacts, whilst creating a full benefit to cost ratio for the different Northern Powerhouse Rail options. The results of this analysis are hoped to demonstrate that better value for taxpayers’ money can be achieved, if the Government are able to make the requisite changes.
Transport for the North have issued a statement on todays report, wholeheartedly embracing the Government’s potential reassessment of its plans. The opportunity of better interconnected travel opportunities should accompany the decarbonisation of our transport sector and create real value for the billions invested. The report itself states “upgrading lines will bring modest benefits, but not to the transformational extent needed to end regional imbalances.”, which cannot be considered an acceptable outcome after such large investments.
Martin Tugwell, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, said:
“This report is a vindication of what TfN has been calling for some time. London and the South East has seen vast sums spent on HS1, the first phase of HS2, on the new Elizabeth Line, and the Thameslink upgrade. Meanwhile the North’s ageing and creaking rail network has had little in the way of new infrastructure or expansion of services. And yet the North’s railway has recovered faster and stronger than the rest of the country, a sure sign of not only how important it is to our economy now but of its potential to be the catalyst for further growth.
“Our plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail are fully-costed and have a robust evidence base to underpin them – they will provide a good return on their investment by allowing the North to break free of the constraints that have held back our economy for too long.
“In particular we are very pleased that the committee has asked for the government to reconsider the case for a new station in Bradford. We have long believed that this investment is vital to unlock the potential of this great Northern city, whose people are underserved by their location on a branch line off the Leeds-Manchester route. And we fully support the committee’s call for an underground station at Manchester to be re-examined and to commit to the redevelopment of Leeds Station. Cities like Liverpool, Sheffield, Hull, and Newcastle also deserve substantial investment, so they are not left behind.
“As the report says it is vital that this once-in-a-generation opportunity is not missed. We look forward to working with the government to build on this report and re-examine the case for transformational investment in the North. We say to the government: We’ve done the work together. Now let’s get on and deliver for the North and Midlands together.”
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