Boris Johnson has promised rail plans will be 'fantastic for the North', claims Jake Berry

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given a personal commitment that the Government's much-anticipated rail plans will be "fantastic for the North", former Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry has claimed.

The Government's Integrated Rail Plan is finally due to be published on Thursday but following briefings to national papers, it is anticipated that the Yorkshire leg of HS2 is to be cancelled while the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme will be watered down with no new high-speed route between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford as had been hoped.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Berry, who is now chair of the influential Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs, claimed he had been given a personal assurance by Mr Johnson that the plans will be positive for the region.

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"We haven't seen the Government's integrated rail strategy but I don't think people need to worry," said Mr Berry.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the annual Lord Mayor's Banquet at the Guildhall in central London.

"He has reassured me that the integrated rail strategy is going to be, quote 'fantastic for the North'.

"Of course, in July 2019 he was a Prime Minister who stood in Manchester and personally committed to delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail. That was a commitment repeated in our manifesto at the last General Election and of course a commitment repeated at the Conservative Party conference.

"I think commitments made by Prime Ministers matter both to the public and colleagues in Parliament.

"We haven't seen this review yet but I and my colleagues across the North are reassured by that personal commitment given by the Prime Minister."

Jake Berry, who chairs the Northern Research Group made up of over 50 Tory MPs.

Today presenter Nick Robinson replied: "I know what you are doing - you are saying on the airwaves, 'Prime Minister if you don't stick to your word I will be the first to criticise you'."

Mr Berry said: "I think the Prime Minister will be a paragon of virtue in this regard. In politics, you can't get better than a Prime Ministerial commitment to the project."

In relation to Northern Powerhouse Rail, Mr Berry added: "Colleagues are very focused on East-West connectivity.

"If you live and work in the North of England, it is frankly the most important thing for driving our economy.

"What we want to see is high-speed rail connectivity across the North delivered in a timely manner and at good value for taxpayers.

"Colleagues don't mind how it is done, they just want to see it done.

"Let's give the Government credit, we have this personal commitment from the Prime Minister and I believe on Thursday that will be a commitment he will deliver on."

He said improvements "needed to go much further than between Manchester and Leeds".

"The challenge with lots of these transport policies, including just building the western leg of HS2, is that there is some sort of idea among civil servants and Government circles that the North is Manchester. Of course, it is not. Lancashire, the North-East, County Durham, Cumbria warrants much more of this investment and I think we will see this sort of investment in the strategy.

"For many colleagues, that is much more important than knocking 40 minutes off a journey time to London."

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