Manchester Piccadilly Station

Transport for the North told to hold off on NPR business plans

Transport Minister, Grant Shapps, has instructed Transport for the North, to hold off on submitting the business plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail, according to The Yorkshire Evening Post.

The Government wish to release their report illustrating how the plan will fall in line with HS2 and other major infrastructure projects first. 

Transport for the North had plans to submit the strategic outline case for the multi-billion-pound project to the Transport Secretary next month but may now have to do several months of extra work on the document depending on the findings of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).

It is also a concern that the IRP may set a budget that stops the most ambitious version of the scheme, which would include a station stop in Bradford city centre as part of the new Leeds-Manchester line, from going ahead.

There is a disagreement over whether to choose a £17bn route serving Bradford backed by civic and business leaders and an alternative costing £4bh less which misses out the city entirely.

The recent report from the National Infrastructure Commission details that the Government could only afford the Bradford city centre stop if it raised its overall rail infrastructure budget to £129bn.

The Yorkshire Evening Post reports that members of TfN’s board will discuss whether to delay submitting the plan tomorrow (18 Feb) but have been instructed they cannot discuss the matter publicly due to a demand by the Department for Transport (DfT) that it be dealt with in a private section of the meeting.

DfT officials have denied forcing TfN to discuss the item in private but a confidential report seen by The Yorkshire Post says Section 100 A(2) of the Local Government Act 1972 requiring the item to be discussed in private was "triggered" by the Government.

DfT has also accused TfN of moving too slow on NPR and last year set up an Acceleration Council to speed up the delivery of the major projects.

Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Henri Murison, has said: “If the Government are truly committed to levelling up and the economic rebalancing of this country, delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 in full are critical to that ambition.

"Cutting back on either or both would be a betrayal of businesses and communities in Yorkshire and right across the North.

“Three days after becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson pledged a new line between Leeds and Manchester. Now it appears that the Department of Transport is pushing upgrades to existing lines instead. This will not deliver the transformational benefits the North so badly needs.

“Businesses in Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford are deeply concerned about the scaling back of the rail projects that have the potential to revolutionise the economies of all of those cities, as well as better, connect the North. They, and the whole of the North, will not accept being made to settle for second best.”

A DfT spokesman said: “Northern Powerhouse Rail is a key part of the Government’s agenda to level-up the North and our Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) will soon outline how the programme will boost connectivity across the region and provide faster more frequent services for passengers.

“We want to get this vital project underway as soon as possible and we have therefore asked TfN to submit their business case after the IRP to ensure the rapid alignment of plans and swifter progress.”

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