Future plans for High Speed rail in West Yorkshire to be released ‘soon’, insists rail minister

A Government transport minister has stopped short of confirming when crucial plans for large rail projects in Yorkshire will be released to the public, insisting it would be “soon”.

The integrated rail plan – which is expected to include detailed information on the future of the north-south HS2 and east-west Northern Powerhouse Rail projects – was initially expected last year, but was delayed until after the local elections due to purdah rules.

Rail minister Andrew Stephenson who was visiting Leeds station to open its new platform zero, stopped short of putting a timescale on when the plan would be released.

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It follows an announcement from the Government this week that it would be ploughing £400m into the country’s rail network, as well as contributing to the planned White Rose Centre and Thorpe Park stations.

Andrew Stephenson visiting Leeds rail station earlier today.

Mr Stephenson said: “The North has been starved of investment for many years. Today’s announcement will be the first step in a number of really positive announcements for the region.

“Today’s announcement is just a down-payment ahead of our integrated rail plan, where we are going to set out our ambitious plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Transpennine route upgrade and high speed rail in the north of England.

“We are hoping to announce shortly the decarbonising rail plan, and the integrated transport plan will come very soon after that.

“I very much hope it will be published without delay. We are hoping to get the decarbonising rail plan out first, so I hope that is sooner, but certainly the integrated rail plan will follow. I am keen to make sure that communities in Yorkshire have that certainty about when investment is coming.”

The Integrated Rail Plan was commissioned in February 2020 when the Prime Minister announced that HS2 would go ahead.

The review was set up to decide how Phase 2b of the project could best be delivered alongside NPR and projects like the Transpennine Route Upgrade connecting Leeds, Manchester and York.

But it will also look at how best to reduce costs, leading to concerns the Leeds leg of HS2 or a high speed rail station in Bradford may be delayed or downgraded.

On the Northern Powerhouse Rail plans, Mr Stephenson said he wanted Bradford to be “included”, but again stopped short of confirming whether this would mean a station for the city centre.

He added: “Bradford is really important to Northern Powerhouse Rail and to the regional economy. I have been speaking to northern leaders about the importance of Bradford and of ensuring Bradford is included in our plans.

“I can’t pre-judge the integrated rail plan, but people across the region recognise the importance of Bradford, and I want to ensure we deliver for Bradford.”

When asked whether the HS2 eastern leg would extend to Leeds, he said: “We are keen to ensure that passengers across Yorkshire benefit from high speed rail and benefit from it as soon as possible.

“The rail needs assessment suggests a phased approach to delivery – that is one of the things being looked at. I am committed to delivering high speed rail to Yorkshire.”

Investment announced today from the Government includes £15m to help build two new stations on the outskirts of Leeds – at the White Rose centre between Morley and Cottingley; and at Thorpe Park, a parkway station between Leeds and York.

The two stations will cost £55m to build, with the rest of the costs being met by the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund, the Leeds Public Transport Investment Programme and private contributions.