HS2 Eastern leg and Northern Powerhouse Rail decisions 'coming very soon', promises Minister

A Government minister has promised the long-delayed Integrated Rail Plan which will determine the future of the HS2 Eastern leg to Leeds and Northern Powerhouse Rail "is coming very soon".

Rail Minister Andrew Stephenson made the remarks as he faced repeated questions on recent reports that Bradford will be cut out of the NPR route and the HS2 Eastern leg either substantially delayed or mothballed.

The Government's IRP had originally been due to be published last year but is yet to see the light of day.

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Mr Stephenson made the comments after shadow railways minister Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi accused the Government of having a “complete lack of ambition” for the North of England.

Rail Minister Andrew Stephenson said a plan will be published "very soon"Rail Minister Andrew Stephenson said a plan will be published "very soon"
Rail Minister Andrew Stephenson said a plan will be published "very soon"

He said: “After the Budget, northern leaders were left even more bemused than before about Government plans for the North. No mention of Northern Powerhouse Rail, nothing more on HS2 Eastern Leg, or the Midlands Rail Hub, still no rolling programme of electrification and no sign of the mythical Integrated Rail Plan which he keeps referring me to for over a year now.

“What a complete lack of ambition for the North. So how did this happen? Was it because the Secretary of State could not convince the Chancellor about investing in our country’s railways or was it because the Chancellor thought giving tax cuts to already wealthy bankers was far more important?”

Mr Stephenson replied: “Let’s not pretend we are not getting on with the job already. We are investing in the North of England: £29 billion in northern transport since 2010. And in that Budget he just referred to, we announced over a billion pounds for Greater Manchester, over £830 million for West Yorkshire and £570 million for South Yorkshire.

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“The Integrated Rail Plan is coming and I am delighted to say it is not just coming soon: it is coming very soon.”

Bradford East Imran Hussain pressed Mr Stephenson on a Bradford stop on Northern Powerhouse Rail following recent reports it may be cut from the route.

“The Government are now believed to be scrapping these plans, so can the minister today give me some certainty and either commit to the plan or admit that the reality is that this Government has no intention of delivering real transformative change to the economy and lives of people in West Yorkshire?

Mr Stephenson reiterated the Government continues to look at the evidence for building a new station in Bradford and “decisions as he knows will be outlined in the Integrated Rail Plan in due course”.

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The publication of the Integrated Rail Plan has been pushed back following reported tensions between Mr Sunak and Boris Johnson over the costs of NPR, which could cost around £40bn to deliver in full.

A Whitehall official recently told the i newspaper the current proposals for NPR - which has been intended to see a new line created between Leeds and Liverpool via Bradford and Manchester and high-speed upgrades to existing lines between several other Northern cities - are a scaled-back version that would only deliver a revised version of the plan “on a shoestring”.

Work on the Eastern leg of HS2 between Birmingham and Leeds has also been on hold for over a year as the outcome of the IRP is awaited.

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