Integrated Rail Plan 'not in North's best interest', says new TfN chair Patrick McLoughlin

New Transport for the North chair Lord McLoughlin has pledged to fight for the full Northern Powerhouse Rail route to be delivered - arguing the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan “goes against the best interest of people in the North”.

The Tory grandee and former Transport Secretary and Derbyshire Dales MP is to start work in the £60,000-per-year role today after his appointment was approved at a board meeting in Manchester yesterday.

Lord McLoughlin was not in attendance but released a statement afterwards expressing his delight about being appointed to the job.

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TfN described the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan as “woefully inadequate” when it was published in November and included the axing of the HS2 leg to Leeds and dashed hopes of a full new high-speed NPR line between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford in favour of a shorter route between Warrington and Marsden on the edge of Yorkshire.

Lord McLoughlin is the new chair of Transport for the North

Lord McLoughlin said he would push for a Government U-turn on the NPR route.

“A key focus for the TfN Board remains the need to press the case as to why its preferred approach to Northern Powerhouse Rail remains fundamental to securing the long-term economic future of the North," he said.

“The Government’s Integrated Rail Plan goes against the best interest of people in the North and fails to deliver the step-change in rail services that is the only sustainable, long-term solution.”

Lord McLoughlin is set to appear at a Transport Select Committee hearing in Parliament next week on the Integrated Rail Plan.

It comes as a Government assessment admitted decisions on downgrading the HS2 and NPR routes contained within its rail plan were made without a full assessment of their economic benefit.

The Department for Transport published a 29-page technical annex for the IRP on Monday night.

The annex says the Government has rated building HS2 to Leeds as “poor-low” value for money, while it states creating the full NPR network would prove “poor” value for money.

But it admits: “Given the early stage of development of the options under consideration in the IRP, it has not been possible to fully assess their impacts on the wider economy, particularly associated with households and businesses changing location in response to the investment."

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Tim Foster, Interim Strategy and Programme Director for Transport for the North, said it had not yet been possible to complete a full assessment of the technical report.

But he added: "It is is actually quite light and possibly shorter than we might have expected given the importance and the magnitude of the decisions that were made.

"We will probably need to go back to the department and see what more technical detail they are able to share with us.

"What is clear is that the wider economic and social implications of the IRP haven't been taken into account. It does contrast with the way the evidence for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme has been developed in a very robust and transparent way."

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin said: "I’m dismayed to see that the Government has only looked at the absolute cost of transport spending and not the wider social and economic benefits a high-quality integrated rail network would bring. What is ‘levelling up’ if it’s not about bettering the lives of our communities?"

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the report published by the Government appeared to be "threadbare".

The Department for Transport tonight hit back at the criticism, describing them as an "oversimplification" and saying the technical document is a summary of options.

A DfT spokesperson said: "These criticisms are an oversimplification and ignore the many benefits our £96bn Integrated Rail Plan will deliver - better connectivity, greener travel and quicker improvements for passengers.

"This technical document - which is based on sources including TfN’s own work on Northern Powerhouse Rail - simply summarises how the options considered could impact things like capacity and connectivity, decarbonisation, affordability and value for money.”

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