'Much to celebrate' for North Yorkshire in Integrated Rail Plan, insists top Tory councillor

A North Yorkshire Conservative councillor has insisted the Government’s much-derided Integrated Rail Plan will bring benefits to his region, as he hit out at the approach of Labour colleagues on the Transport for the North board.

North Yorkshire councillor Don Mackenzie sits on the Transport for the North board

Speaking after Labour politicians on the board had lined up to condemn the IRP’s proposals for their respective areas at a meeting in Leeds, Coun Don Mackenzie told yesterday’s meeting that some of the speeches had been geared more towards pursuing personal political ambitions that accurately analysing what has been put forward.

He said: “We are supposed to be critical friends (of the Department for Transport) but are coming across as a critical enemy.

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“I’m here to represent the interests of the travelling public in North Yorkshire. I believe in this £96bn plan there are many things my residents can celebrate.”

He said planned upgrades to the East Coast Main Line will bring faster journey times between York and other cities like London, Birmingham and Newcastle.

Coun Mackenzie added: “I do have huge sympathy for Bradford and would have like to see Bradford brought more into the northern rail network but I don’t believe the interests of this board are well served by these well-rehearsed ever more negative statement and disappointments with the Integrated Rail Plan. We should wait and see the technical reasons behind it.”

Speaking in response, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “I don’t think it is fair to criticise people for expressing feelings of having expectations raised and then abandoned. It is legitimate.”

Coun Mackenzie did subsequently back a board motion proposed by Mr Burnham calling for new talks with the Government on the possibility of exploring different funding models to pay for the full Northern Powerhouse Rail route - including a new line between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford.

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