The Prime Minister is due to announce this week that the proposed new rail link between Manchester and Leeds will not go ahead, opting instead to upgrade the existing route between the cities.
Experts claim the current route between Leeds and Manchester is constrained in terms of capacity.
A new link, running via Bradford, would provide a high-speed connection between Manchester and Leeds, thus freeing up capacity on existing lines for local services.
On Thursday, the government’s Integrated Rail Plan is to be published, outlining how Whitehall plans to improve the nation’s railway network.
After promising to deliver the Manchester to Leeds line on numerous occasions, it will no longer feature in the plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail, it is understood.
First reported by the i, the news has met with anger from Northern leaders.
“Throwing money at 150-year-old tunnels towards Manchester because it will cost less is not Northern Powerhouse Rail,” said Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison.
“The suggestion that an upgrade of the current route across the Pennines is going to unlock the potential of the North as a productive and successful counterweight to London and the South East for the UK is misguided and, in economic terms, disastrous.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Work is continuing on the Integrated Rail Plan. We will publish it shortly and do not comment on speculation.”
The £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail project is aimed at improving east-to-west links in the North of England through an extensive package of upgrades and new lines.
As well as the proposed Manchester to Leeds link, a new line connecting Liverpool and Manchester via Warrington also forms part of the vision.
Once delivered, the network is predicted to contribute £14.4bn to the UK economy by 2060, according to Transport for the North.
TfN, which has led on the creation of NPR, was contacted for comment on the scrapping of the Manchester to Leeds link.
NPR has long been considered a key pillar of the government’s levelling up agenda.
However, news that a key part of it is to be scrapped has raised questions over Whitehall’s commitment to delivering real change in the North.
Deputy leader of the Labour party Angela Raynor took to Twitter to blast Boris Johnson.
“In the North we know never to trust what the Tories say,” Raynor said.
“We were first promised Northern Powerhouse Rail seven years ago. Not a yard of track has been laid, and now it never will be.”
Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon, who is also the shadow transport secretary, said the decision to scrap the critical chunk of NPR was a “betrayal”.
“Pulling the rug, betraying the Midlands and the North won’t be made up by a watered- down Northern Powerhouse Rail.”
With three days until the Integrated Rail Plan is published, Murison has called on Johnson to change his mind on the Manchester to Leeds link.
“The Prime Minister has only a few days to correct the course his government is on despite his previous promises and instincts.”
In June, Downing Street shrugged off suggestions that the Manchester to Leeds link would be scrapped. A spokesperson said the government was “absolutely committed” to delivering the project.