Transport for the North states the business case for the £43bn rail scheme will not be submitted until March 2022 at the earliest - a year later than originally planned - but it could be “potentially much later” and this will “result in delays to the programme and start of construction”.
That is because Northern leaders have been told the IRP will not be made public until after Parliament’s summer recess, which ends on September 6, and Transport for the North needs to review it before finalising its business case for the project, which is due to deliver new railway lines and upgrade existing infrastructure across the North.
The Government asked Transport for the North to submit a business case after it publishes the IRP, which was due to be released last year and is expected to set out how NPR will be integrated with HS2 and other rail projects.
A Department of Transport spokeswoman told the Yorkshire Post the document would be published “soon” but did not set a date.
South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis has described the delay as “completely unacceptable”.
He said: “I struggle to see how this government can claim to be serious about ‘levelling up’ the North, when there are so many question marks about something as basic as improving rail connections between our towns and cities.
“We desperately need the Government to provide clarity on their plans for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail serving our region. They’re prolonging the uncertainty for businesses and people living on the proposed HS2 route in the North.”
Tim Wood, interim chief executive at Transport for the North, said: “It’s frustrating that the North now has to wait until later in the year, whilst construction of HS2 is already benefiting the south and Midlands.
“If we’re going to level-up the UK’s economy, we need certainty over how much funding will be available for northern projects and clear Government commitment to delivering them in the form of this plan.
“We’ve been clear on what we want to see, including the green light for the Northern Powerhouse Rail to move into detailed design and construction by the mid-2020s.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the Government “needs to stop delaying and start committing.”
He added: “This continued lack of clarity leaves us in the dark about what the levelling-up agenda really means.
“Worst of all, it means that passengers here are having to make do with a railway that is simply not fit for purpose, let alone for the future.”
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b and other transformational projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the North and Midlands need and deserve.”