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The government's new rail plan was announced today. Credit: James Newcombe on Unsplash

Govt promises new rail plan is faster, more efficient

Julia Hatmaker

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.

Read the industry’s reaction to the news

The plan

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 Mix Graph For Media, C Department For Transport

A government-made graphic showing the difference IRP will make. Credit: HM Government

The results

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 logic

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.”

Your Comments

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“All places are connected, but some are more connected than others” with apologies to George Orwell.

By Liverpolitis

Why a line to Marsden? Marsden is a small village near Huddersfield which has what relevance to Manchester economically? I get the link between Warrington and Manchester, although Liverpool via Warrington would make more sense. Presumably Marsden will be where the train will go back to the Victorian track to Leeds. What is it with Grant Shapps and terminating HS lines miles away from anywhere of significance? Are Marsden and East Midlands Parkway, the new epicentres of economic growth?

By Elephant

A lot of people will be glad HS2 isn’t coming past their door I’m sure. It looks as if Manchester will benefit once again however and a sop has been thrown to Leeds of a team track. The biggest missed opportunity however is the HS3 proposal east west. I suppose that was always a pipe dream.

By Anonymous

So Liverpool City Region gets what exactly?

By Hiphiphooray

What a load of old crock! They know full well they’re not keeping to their promise and that these new ‘IRP times’ are indeed slower than what was initially proposed and not actually that much quicker than times pre-covid. Shambles, actually pathetic.

By Bozo Idiot

As expected, sadly. A lot of the changes make sense but the review paper sections on Liverpool are a markedly different tone from the rest.

Rather than levelling up, boosting the economy, the sole focus is on saving money. The document even says that if the city wants a new station it will have to find the money locally. And uniquely any better alternatives in terms of route will need to pass the Green book test (ripped up for everyone else).

South Liverpool loses its London trains at Runcorn in exchange for just 2 minutes off the HS2 journey time. Still no mention of HS2 services to Birmingham.

Not only is the city still an unwelcome afterthought, anyone hoping the new HS2 board would mean an end to false narratives and well and truly had their hopes dashed.

Liverpool CR ought to take legal action over this. They may have think laterally, but gifting Leeds an unqualified multi billion pound compensation programme is an open goal.

By Jeff

The Western arm of HS2 toLeeds was always a nonsense and is properly axed but there should have been an HS3 link from Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds which should have integrated with HS2 at Manchester and the commencement of the construction of the Western HS2b link to Manchester should have already started to link up with Crewe.

At the same time, there should have been the provision for HS 2 to link through to HS1 to the Channel Tunnell to Europe without transfer and the opportunity to link Manchester Airport to Heathrow by the line going directly through Heathrow, rather than a transfer at Old Oak Common, has been entirely missed.

I have been saying this for years, but does anyone listens to me (or listen)??

There’s a hope!!

By None

Since when has Marsden been the epicentre of the rail network in the north of England? You’re more likely to find Compo and Cleggie wandering about than anything that resembles a cutting edge economic location. So much for Northern Powerhouse and the leveling up agenda!

By Grumpy Old Git

If the Government where serious they would have a direct line to the Liverpool City Region !

By Anonymous

Within Greater Manchester the billions being spent on infrastructure must be staggering, as it will cover new stations , track , tunnelling etc, does anyone know the amount?
I think I know the amount being spent in the Liverpool City Region……ZERO.

By Anonymous

Wigan still gets HS2 over Liverpool and Leeds ?
come one !!!!!!!!!!!

By Anonymous

Dear Mr Elephant
There will be no new Cross-Moors railway line. Wires will be put up so that electric trains, instead of diesel, cut a few minutes off the journey. Also, many rail routes have space for four tracks. So some new rails will be laid for four instead of two rail tracks; this will be called NEW CROSS-APENNINE HIGH-SPEED RAIL. Put a few wires up … call it THE NORTHERN HUB or NORTHERN POWERHOUSE, until folk lose interest. That is all. Has nobody worked in a PR (PRopaganda) office? You do not need to fool all the folk all of the time; just most folk most of the time. Dead easy!

By James Hayes

Well at least Manchester still gets a multi billion pound investment but I agree with the sentiment that the Northern cities need to be linked east west . Until we get more say in Parliament the London bias will continue.

By Anonymous

Looks like the London bias has now become Manchester bias.

By Anonymous

In a post covid world where we all work form home and are cutting down on carbon emissions building new train lines is wrong anyway

By Dan

And cheshire gets nothing again!

No. new Crewe -sandbach – middlewich -Northwich junction LINE

No new western airport rail route line from mobberley on mid cheshire line to manchester airport

No electricfication of the Mid cheshire line to manchester piccadilly which has been in tier one
for years to be electrified!

Northwich to man picc. 1 hour 5 mins to do 19 miles is a total disgrace.

By Northwich

The Manchester bias is getting crumbs

By Anonymous

I know all that James but why Marsden? Why not Huddersfield, a big town? Marsden is a bizarre choice as the Terminus to a HS train.

By Elephant

Or perhaps a Warrington bias?….winners and losers.

By Anonymous

“Govt promises” first two words of the headline… oops ;-)

By Disgruntled Goat

It’s amazing that even after all this time, the focus is still on speed. Speed was never the reason to build HS2 and NPR, it was capacity. That’s the huge benefit and biy that one is big. Speed is just what comes when you don’t rely on an ancient Victorian railway. The original recommended plans would have both massive capacity imporvments that would have resulted in a hugely improved local and regional network on existing rails (with express trains on the new lines) and a speed increase

By EOD

Dan, pay attention to the the PNW reports . In a post covid world not everyone is working from home no matter how many you keep writing it.

By Anonymous