Minister defends downgrading 'big fancy plans' for Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2

Transport Minister Andrew Stephenson has hit back at criticism of the Integrated Rail Plan.Transport Minister Andrew Stephenson has hit back at criticism of the Integrated Rail Plan.
Transport Minister Andrew Stephenson has hit back at criticism of the Integrated Rail Plan.
Transport Minister Andrew Stephenson has defended the Government downgrading “big fancy plans” for Northern rail improvements in its controversial proposals for the region.

There was widespread disappointment in last month’s Integrated Rail Plan, which cut Leeds from the HS2 route and failed to deliver a new high-speed line between Manchester and Leeds via Bradford.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously promised the HS2 route to Leeds would be built in full and he had been a leading proponent of a new Manchester to Leeds line. Instead, a new line will be built between Warrington and Marsden on the edge of Yorkshire before joining an existing line.

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Labour MP for Manchester Gorton Afzal Khan said: “In the North, we have been waiting six years for the so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail to improve connectivity between our major cities, yet in the IRP the Government broke their promise and ditched the line between Manchester and Leeds in favour of tinkering upgrades to existing routes.

"Northern Powerhouse Rail’s chief architect, George Osborne, last month accused the Prime Minister of lacking ambition and said ‘Levelling up, at the moment, feels more like a slogan than a plan’. Minister, why do this Government keep on failing the North?”

Mr Stephenson said the claim was “not true”.

“There comes a moment when you have to move away from big fancy plans to actually delivering. This plan is going to deliver benefits for the North: £17bn being invested in Northern Powerhouse Rail, with early benefits happening soon; and over £2bn already committed to the TransPennine route upgrade. We are getting on with delivering benefits to passengers across the North.”

Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake said a direct connection between Bradford and Manchester would be a “significant improvement” on the IRP and could be done with major budget increases.

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Mr Stephenson said he was happy to meet “to discuss possible future investment”.

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