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Concern grows over Northern Powerhouse Rail

A DELAY in publishing the Department for Transport’s Integrated Rail Plan is causing more concern at Transport for the North, whose board is set to be told that improvements to the region’s rail services are also being affected by the uncertainty.

TfN had already reacted with dismay in January when cuts to its budget seemed likely. TfN board members had expressed ‘disappointment’ that TfN seemed likely to get less than half the amount which had been set out in the authority’s Spending Review bid, and warned that such cuts would come at a time when the ‘levelling-up agenda’ – as well as supporting an economic recovery from Covid-19 – was ‘needed more than ever’.

When the TfN board meets on Thursday, it will consider documents which warn that improvements to the rail corridors between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle, a key part of Northern Powerhouse Rail, will depend on the DfT’s delayed rail plan.

The DfT conceded that although the forthcoming plan ’could require changes’, it said these were not expected to affect the timetable for construction. It added that ‘no decisions have been taken on Northern Powerhouse Rail options’.

Other changes could take place more quickly, because the DfT launched a public consultation last month about three possible patterns of train services in Greater Manchester, which could be introduced in the near future.

The first option makes few changes, but the second sacrifices the through service between Sheffield and Manchester Airport in return for increasing services between Cleethorpes, Nottingham and Sheffield to Manchester and Liverpool, while the final option makes the most changes, with more frequent trains proposed on a number of routes.

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