Govt promises new rail plan is faster, more efficient
Transport secretary Grant Shapps unveiled the Integrated Rail Plan today with a speech in the House of Commons. The £96bn IRP waters down the original HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail plans, focusing on improving existing lines rather than creating new ones.
The Department for Transport will create three high-speed lines covering 110 miles. Included in the new lines is the completion of HS2 from Crewe to Manchester, with new stations at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly.
IRP also includes the delivery of a high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden in Yorkshire. This is the plan’s nod to Northern Powerhouse Rail and is, according to the department, actually one of the first of the options originally put forward by Transport for the North in 2019.
The third new line will be a high-speed line between Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway. IRP also includes plans for a study to find the best way to bring HS2 trains to Leeds.
The new plan also includes the running of high-speed services from Manchester to Leeds in 33 minutes and Manchester to Liverpool in 35 minutes, which will double capacity to Leeds and more than treble capacity to Liverpool. Northern Powerhouse Rail will also run from Newcastle to Liverpool, with approximately 40 miles of continuous new high-speed line.
IRP also promises to fully electrify and upgrade the Transpennine Main Line between Manchester, Leeds and York, which will be part of the delivery of the first phase of NPR. The upgrades include installing full digital signalling and creating longer sections of three and four-tracking to allow faster trains to overtake stopping services. The news coincides with the announcement of an additional £625m in funding to progress the Transpennine Route Upgrade.
Other projects in the IRP include complete electrification of the Midland Main Line and upgrades to the East Coast Main Line to the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East.
The department said that it would, in total, provide the electrification of more than 180 miles of the route. That will play a crucial part in the department’s goal to remove all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040.
IRP includes funds for a new mass transit system for Leeds and West Yorkshire and delivering ticketing rail reform.
IRP will cut down the journey between Leeds and Manchester from 55 minutes to 33 minutes, according to the department.
HS2 West will make it only 1 hour and 11 minutes to go between London and Manchester, and 41 to 51 minutes to go between Birmingham and Manchester. Currently, the Birmingham-Manchester journey takes 86 minutes.
According to the department, IRP will deliver journey times that are the same as, similar to or faster than previous proposals to most destinations on the HS2 and NPR core routes.
The government also stated that the improvements in IRP will increase capacity on key routes. It will bring about change to rail lines up to a decade sooner than under previous plans.
The government said that the new plans were created after it became aware that the full HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail teams would cost up to £185bn and not be entered into service until the early to mid-2040s.
“Building on the expert findings of wide-ranging internal and independent analysis, including from the National Infrastructure Commission, the plan will deliver better outcomes for passengers in a faster and more efficient way than under original plans for the schemes,” the department said in a press release.
What the politicians say
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
“My mission is to level up opportunity across our country, which is why we’re making train journeys faster and more reliable through the biggest ever public investment in our rail network.
“This is because better rail connections are essential for growing local economies and businesses, and our Integrated Rail Plan will deliver better services to more people, more quickly.
“Levelling up has to be for everyone, not just the biggest cities. That’s why we will transform transport links between our biggest cities and smaller towns, ensuring we improve both long-distance and vital local services and enabling people to move more freely across the country wherever they are.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps
“Our plan is ambitious, deliverable and backed by the largest single government investment ever made in our rail network. It will deliver punctual, frequent and reliable journeys for everyone, wherever they live.
“Just as the Victorians gave this country our railways nearly 200 years ago, this Integrated Rail Plan will create a modern, expanded railway fit for today and future generations. Significant improvements will be delivered rapidly, bringing communities closer together, creating jobs and making places more attractive to business, and in doing so, rebalancing opportunity across the country.
“Our plans go above and beyond the initial ambitions of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail by delivering benefits for communities no matter their size, right across the North and Midlands, up to 10 to 15 years earlier.”