Northern leaders claim they 'can’t continue to wait' for Government transport plan

Northern leaders claim they cannot press ahead with Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and other ambitious transport projects until the Government publishes a long-awaited plan which sets out how the schemes can be integrated.

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin

At a Transport for the North (TfN) meeting yesterday they renewed calls for the Government to release the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) for the Midlands and the North, which was originally expected last year but then delayed until after the local elections.

TfN is unable to submit a business case for NPR, which promises to upgrade rail infrastructure and deliver new rail lines across the north, until the plan is published and Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin said she cannot secure funding for a mass transit system in the region or deliver other transport projects outlined in her election manifesto until she sees the plan.

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“We can’t continue to wait like this. It feels that we’ve been strung along,” she said.

“What can we do to try and make our case to Government that this is holding us all back, and also the levelling up agenda?”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the “ridiculous” delay was holding back a major upgrade which aims to improve long-standing problems with congestion on the railways in central Manchester.

“We will not be able to judge whether the infrastructure proposals are right until we see the IRP and how it all links together,” he said.

Tim Wood, acting chief executive of Transport for the North, said he is “hopeful” the plan will be released before Parliament’s summer recess begins on July 22 but there is “no clear news” and northern leaders must “continue to press hard” for publication.

TfN is continuing work on the NPR project, after the Government allocated a £75m budget for the financial year, and design and capacity reviews are being carried out at stations in Leeds and Liverpool.

It plans to carry out a rapid review of the IRP to determine how it should be integrated with HS2 and other transport projects.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Wood said: “We need clarity and firm commitment from Government on delivering that strategy, which we expect to come in the form of the Integrated Rail Plan.

“We’re now working with Government and the national agencies, such as Network Rail, to ensure the investment programmes we put forward are committed to and then delivered.”

Last month Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the IRP would be released “soon” but did not set a date.

TfN, which is working with Network Rail to deliver NPR, says it will boost the UK economy by £14.4bn a year, create up to 74,000 jobs in the north and take 58,000 cars off the road by 2060.

There are plans to build a new lines which link Leeds and Manchester and Liverpool and Manchester. Upgrades are also planned for the East Coast Mainline, the Hope Valley route which links Sheffield and Manchester and the line between Leeds and Hull.