Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed in Parliament that the HS2 line will no longer run up to Leeds as had been planned, with a revised line from Birmingham now only running as far as the East Midlands Parkway. While HS2 trains will be able to run up to Sheffield, it will only be along the existing Midland Main Line and the scheme is not scheduled to be completed until the mid-2040s.
Meanwhile, the Northern Powerhouse Rail plans will only involve a new £17bn high-speed line between Warrington and Marsden, which is two miles inside the Yorkshire border. Mr Shapps faced derision in Parliament as he announced the new line would run only “to the western border of Yorkshire”.
The Government said going ahead with a full new high-speed route between Liverpool and Leeds via Bradford, which Northern leaders had been calling for, would have cost an additional £18bn and only saved minutes from journey times.
In total, the Government has committed to 110 miles of new high-speed line across the Midlands and the North - including giving the go-ahead to the Crewe to Manchester leg of HS2.
Transport for the North interim chair Louise Gittins described what has been announced as “woefully inadequate” - particularly in regard to Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“Leaders from across the North and from across the party political divide came together to ask for a network that would upgrade the North for this century and in line with the rest of the country. Our statutory advice asked for an over £40 billion network but the Government has decided to provide even less than half of that.”
Writing in The Yorkshire Post today, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government have “sold out the people of Yorkshire”.
The IRP itself stated that previous plans for rail upgrades were estimated to cost up to £185bn - “beyond what could be afforded without a major impact on other infrastructure investment”. The IRP commits to spending £96bn but this includes the pre-existing HS2 budget of almost £60bn.
In recent months there have been growing rumours about a battle between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak over the costs of the IRP but speaking to The Yorkshire Post yesterday, Mr Johnson denied he had lost a battle with the Treasury over the costs of the project.
He said the proposals put forward have come about following recommendations from former Crossrail chairman Doug Oakervee and Network Rail chairman Peter Hendy.
“These are long-standing colleagues of mine who are as passionate about railways as I am and they looked at all the options and this was what they said was the right thing to do.”
He said he disagreed with Transport for the North’s assessment of the proposals as inadequate.
“I have great respect for everybody who lobbies for rail, I used to do it myself when I was Mayor of London,” he said.
"When you get something, you always condemn it as inadequate and say, ‘we should have this, we should have that’. That was exactly my strategy when I was running Transport for London. But this is a colossal commitment. I recommend people look at the detail.”
Future Hull schemes 'subject to finances'
Extending the Northern Powerhouse Rail network to Hull will be “subject to affordability” and the initial part of the scheme staying within budget, the IRP has warned.
“Further schemes (such as Hull upgrades) will be subject to affordability, delivering commitments on time and to budget, and complementary investments being made,” the report said.
The report admitted that despite Hull being “a key port and integral to the regional economy”, journey times to the city from Sheffield and Leeds “are currently poor” - taking 77 and 57 minutes respectively.
“Any future development work on routes to Hull should focus on electrification and line speed improvements to improve journey times from Hull to Leeds,” it added.
The report said a key positive of the revised plans is that it will allow Midland Main Line and Transpennine electrification to go ahead in a way that wouldn’t have been possible under the previous proposals. It said this would help services in Doncaster, Wakefield, Dewsbury and Huddersfield.
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