Fresh blow for plans to revamp major lines (Image: PA)
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The Government's plan to overhaul the rail network has been hit by another delay and will not be published until September at the earliest, we can reveal.
Transport for the North documents seen by the Mirror confirm the fresh blow to hopes of revamping major lines.
It means another postponement to the Northern Powerhouse Rail blueprint for high speed lines linking major cities across the region.
Notes for Transport for the North's Chief Executive Consultation Call (Board) Agenda next Tuesday reveal that “the IRP (Integrated Rail Plan) will not be published prior to parliamentary recess (starting 22 July) and will now be delayed until September 2021 at the earliest”.
Stressing the knock-on effect of delays to plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the notes add: “The Strategic Outline Case for NPR is now unlikely to be completed within the FY (financial year) 21/22 and could take 6-12 months from publication of the IRP”.
The revelation threw further doubt onto the Prime Minister's commitment to boosting regional infrastructure – a key part of his levelling-up pledge and promises to the Red Wall.
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Tuesday marks two years since Boris Johnson, in his first big speech after entering No10, vowed to build NPR, also known as HS3 and which would connect the North’s six big cities – Newcastle, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool and Manchester Airport.
Speaking at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum just three days after taking office, the PM said: “I want to be the Prime Minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did for Crossrail in London, and today I am going to deliver on my commitment to that vision with a pledge to fund the Leeds to Manchester route.
“It is the right thing to do, it’s time we put some substance into the idea of the Northern Powerhouse Rail, and that’s why we are here this morning.”
Blasting the latest postponement, Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison said: “The continued delay from government in publishing the Integrated Rail Plan is deeply damaging to the North of England.
“While HS2 gets built at pace in Birmingham, there is a real risk a project that was about uniting the whole country just helps people from Birmingham get to London if it’s not delivered in full.
“Without fully building both HS2 to Leeds and Manchester, and the new high speed Northern Powerhouse Rail line from Leeds through Bradford city centre and onto Manchester, our businesses and passengers will have to put up with a rail network that is not fit for purpose.
“That is not how you level up the North, and it’s not how you create a fair, balanced economy that works for everyone.”
Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said: “The Conservatives have been in power for more than a decade and it’s nearly seven years since Northern Powerhouse Rail was first mentioned.
“Since then, ministers have managed to brag about it more than 60 times in press releases, but work is yet to start.
“How many cheap soundbites and pop-up speeches does Boris Johnson think he can get away with while continually kicking the can down the road on the jobs, investment and prosperity people in the north deserve?”
A Department for Transport spokesman 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.”