WHAT are being described as ‘final’ recommendations for Northern Powerhouse Rail have been made by leaders in the region, who are urging the government to give its support.
Transport for the North has sent its official plan to Westminster, saying that ‘now is not the time to scale back on ambition’.
Two priorities are leading the case being made by TfN. One is new conventional railways and upgrades to existing routes in the north and the other is the eastern leg of HS2 from the West Midlands to Leeds.
Tomorrow’s budget is expected to be followed within weeks by the government’s Integrated Rail Plan, which should clarify the Department for Transport’s policy and its investment strategy.
The TfN ‘shopping list’ includes new lines between Liverpool, Warrington and Manchester, and from Manchester to Leeds via Bradford. Other routes listed for ‘significant upgrades’ include the Hope Valley line between Manchester and Sheffield, electrification from Leeds and Sheffield to Hull, and improvements to the East Coast Main Line, as well as the reopening of the Leamside line.
TfN is arguing that its proposals would contribute £14.4 billion in annual gross value to the economy by 2060, create up to 74,000 new jobs and take the equivalent of 58,000 cars off the road.
The inclusion of the East Coast Main Line in the TfN plans has been echoed by the group Invest East Coast Rail, which has been set up by a cross-party group of local councils, combined authorities and Scottish Regional Transport Partnerships. It was previously known as the Consortium of East Coast Mainline Authorities.
IECR says it has identified economic benefits worth £11 billion that could be achieved by a number of schemes to improve the East Coast Main Line.
Tim Wood is Northern Powerhouse Rail director at Transport for the North. He said: ‘We hope that the significant body of evidence, worked up alongside the Department for Transport, will be reflected in an ambitious commitment to investment in the North in the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan. We can then swiftly press on with joint delivery for the Northern public. We’ve done the work together, now let’s get on and deliver for the North together.’
Cllr Kim Groves, the vice chair for the north for Invest East Coast Rail and chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, added: ‘A reliable and resilient East Coast Main Line is critical to ensuring West Yorkshire recovers as quickly as possible from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and is a central element of the ambitious plans for the future of transport in our region we have set out in our Connectivity Infrastructure Plan.’