Grant Shapps to create new body to accelerate northern transport upgrades

The Government has insisted rapid investment in the North’s railways is key to rebuilding after coronavirus amid reports a multi-billion announcement is due to be made by the transport secretary this week.

Reports today have suggested transport secretary Grant Shapps is poised to announce a £6bn investment into northern railways this week, and the creation of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council to drive through the trans-Pennine upgrade.

The Sunday Times reported the new body was expected to deliver Boris Johnson’s “Project Speed” promise to hasten the delivery of infrastructure upgrades, with a government minister due to sit on the council.

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The newspaper reported ministers believe the current body, Transport for the North (TfN), is a “talking shop” which has done little to bring forward rail upgrades.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during a visit to Leeds Train Station. Photo: PA

But experts pointed out that TfN does not have the funding, or powers, to deliver the upgrades.

Reports also pointed towards plans for a Department for Transport hub in the North, adding to previous reports of other government departments looking to move some civil servants to areas such as York.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed this week that the prospect of a government hub in the North was being explored.

A DfT spokesperson said today: “We’ve been clear that, as we rebuild from Covid-19, we must invest in revitalising towns and cities across the North, to ensure we kickstart our economic recovery, deliver rapid improvements to journeys for passengers, and accelerate the delivery of key projects.

“We are working closely with Northern leaders to determine how to ensure that vital investment is delivered swiftly and effectively. We will announce further details in due course.”