Andy Burnham leads plan to save full Northern Powerhouse Rail route through landowner taxes

Northern politicians and business leaders are to seek talks with the Government about delivering the full Northern Powerhouse Rail network - indicating they would be prepared for the region to pay towards covering the current £25bn funding gap.
Andy Burnham (centre) speaking at the Transport for the North meeting in Leeds.Andy Burnham (centre) speaking at the Transport for the North meeting in Leeds.
Andy Burnham (centre) speaking at the Transport for the North meeting in Leeds.

In the Integrated Rail Plan last week, the Government set out plans for a £17.2bn investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail - involving a new high-speed line between Warrington and Marsden on the boundary of Yorkshire that would be part of improving the network between Liverpool and York.

But the plan fell short of the full £42.1bn plan put forward by Northern leaders through the Transport for the North body which would have improved connections between Northern cities from Liverpool to Hull, up to Newcastle and down to Sheffield, with a full new high-speed line between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford at the heart of the proposals.

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At a Transport for the North board meeting in Leeds today, politicians and business leaders lined up to express their dismay at the proposals put forward by Government.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham put forward a motion calling for new talks to be held with the Government on revisiting the original proposals.

"To change the nature of the conversation I would be prepared to consider local contribution or ways of unlocking local contribution to improve what has been proposed," he said.

"The motion asks for that process of mediation to see if there is other solutions, particularly around financing that allows that new line via Bradford back on the table.

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"I don't believe we can possibly admit defeat on that issue. To do so would be failing generations in the North of England. We would be accepting a smaller economy for the North for the rest of our lives."

North Yorkshire Conservative councillor Don Mackenzie, who earlier in the meeting had criticised Labour politicians for making "well-rehearsed ever more negative statements" about the Integrated Rail Plan, said he was supportive of the idea.

"In a small way an example I can give from North Yorkshire is we took parking receipts surplus and invested £10m in the Harrogate to York line in partnership with Network Rail," he said.

At a press conference following the meeting, Mr Burnham said the idea from Northern leaders would not involve raising taxes on local people but instead via a process called 'land value capture' which is used in other countries called Hong Kong. He said the system would work by taxes on land along the proposed route which should rise in value as a result of the construction process.

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"We've got a very old school approach where the Government sits here and we're going to give you this. We are calling for a new approach - it is a positive approach suggestion we are making today. We are saying consider a local contribution to get the right solution for the North of England. It was cross-party and with business leaders supporting it as well. The North has spoken with one voice."

Mr Burnham said future discussions with the Government about the economic case for a full new line should also take account of the years of disruption expected from work on existing lines that are part of the current proposals.

South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis said: "This is the beginning of a grown-up conversation with Government to explore the art of the possible.

"I still think what we want to do is continue to make the case for the Government to do what they originally committed to do.

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"Governments change their mind, u-turns are made. I don't see this as being the end of the line."

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Our Integrated Rail Plan outlines a historic £96bn investment in our railways, delivering upgrades faster and at better value to the taxpayer than any other plan which came before it.

“We welcome all discussions with TfN and are happy to consider proposals on its delivery, provided solutions are realistic and costed.”

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