Gov’t must help North escape infrastructure ‘straightjacket’

Transport for the North has backed the Government’s plans to dovetail High Speed 2 with rail projects in the North, saying “the sooner we start delivering these improvements, the sooner passengers will get the modern rail services they deserve”.

The Department for Transport on Friday proposed drawing up an Integrated Rail Plan to help bring forward “transformational rail improvements along the HS2 route as quickly as possible”.

The Prime Minister had previously said that such a strategy would be informed by the findings of an assessment by the National Infrastructure Committee.

The DfT said it would consider how best to integrate phase 2b of the HS2 rail route, the section that connects Crewe to Manchester, with other transport plans in the North and Midlands, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Liverpool-Leeds link also known as High Speed 3, as well as how best to reduce costs.

Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North, said in a statement: “The North’s economy has struggled for too long in the straightjacket of poor infrastructure and cannot wait any longer before these problems are addressed.

“It is positive that the Government has made speeding up the delivery of infrastructure benefits to the North a basic tenet of this rail investment plan. We can’t wait at the back of the queue while major schemes progress elsewhere.”

The Integrated Rail Plan will look at how best to dovetail schemes like HS2 and Network Rail’s enhancements, alongside the “much-needed” Northern Powerhouse Rail, White added: “That work must be focused on delivering the maximum economic, social and environmental benefits for the North’s communities.

“Exploring efficiencies can’t be shorthand for cutting ambition. We also need to ensure that the voice of the North is heard loud and clear in determining how and when this work should take place.”

The Integrated Rail Plan is expected to be published by the end of the year.

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