Northern Powerhouse Rail
TfN wants construction of the proposed network to begin in 2024

Northern transport leaders await outcome of Govt talks

Sarah Townsend

Officials from the Treasury and Department for Transport are meeting today to discuss the future of rail funding, in talks that will reportedly attempt to scrap the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail project.

The £43bn NPR has been described by industry body Transport for the North as “future defining” and includes plans for a new line between Manchester and Liverpool, upgrades and electrifications of existing services and other work to improve east-west connectivity.

An NPR route would also dovetail with High Speed 2, by sharing track, stations and junctions in parts to slash journey times between the cities of the North. The project was promised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to MPs in the red wall seats of Northern England in 2019 as part of his policy to level up the region but the plans have yet to be signed off and the funding is not place.

The Sunday Express this weekend reported that any available funds for NPR have been swallowed up by HS2 and cited “well placed sources” as revealing that Whitehall officials are due to meet in the Treasury on Monday, to “effectively kill the project”.

Transport for the North submitted its detailed proposals for NPR to the DfT in March and clamoured for support to help work start in 2024. But the exact details of how the Government intends to fund future transport schemes across the UK is to set out in the Integrated Rail Plan later this year, and the DfT declined to comment beyond that.

A departmental spokesman said: “The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b, the Trans Pennine Route Upgrade and other transformational projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the North and Midlands need and deserve.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said in a statement to Place North West that abandoning the project would be a “hammer blow” for the region.

Murison said: “In the Prime Minister’s first major policy speech in Manchester, he committed to building Northern Powerhouse Rail across the Pennines. Rumours that this commitment will be broken are deeply concerning for Northern leaders who are working towards rebalancing the economy.

“The North was promised HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full. To be abandoned now, just as we begin a recovery from the pandemic, would be a hammer blow. We need reassurance and certainty that there is no substance to these rumours – which means an Integrated Rail Plan published before the summer recess.”

The NPR proposals include:

  • Construction of a line from Liverpool to Manchester via the centre of Warrington
  • Construction of a line from Manchester to Leeds via the centre of Bradford
  • Significant upgrades and journey time improvements to the Hope Valley route between Manchester and Sheffield
  • Connecting Sheffield to HS2 and on to Leeds
  • Upgrades and electrification of the rail lines from Leeds and Sheffield to Hull
  • Upgrades of the East Coast Mainline from Leeds to Newcastle, via York and Darlington, and restoration of the Leamside line
Tim Wood Transport For The North

Wood uged DfT to support NPR

Tim Wood, interim chief executive at Transport for the North, said the NPR proposal “provides a step change in capacity and resilience for both passengers and freight and move us away from an ageing Victorian railway between Manchester and Leeds.

“TfN and its members have long been calling for full electrification of the route and major infrastructure upgrades which will drive our economy, jobs and place making.

“We now await the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan by Government, due soon to transform connectivity across the North including great cities like Bradford which has been held back for far too long.”

In addition to today’s meeting, MPs are expected to grill the DfT on what is being done to improve important transport connections in North of England on Thursday morning. The department told TfN in January that its core budget would be cut from £10m to £6m in the next financial year, putting at risk several other Northern transport initiatives.

Meanwhile, the cost of the HS2 high-speed line has increased by a further £1.7bn over the past year due to Covid-related delays and issues, it was reported today.

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The “officials” in London do not want to lose their power and influence, ie. careers; they want to keep control over budgets, planning and decision-making. Their career plans, family plans, life plans do not include handing power and pounds to “little people” in the provinces. Surprise? The Tory ‘Power House’ ‘Levelling Up’ propaganda (PR) campaigns are about to be replaced by something else. Fooled again!

By James Yates

It’s almost as if the Conservative party doesn’t keep its promises!

By Disgruntled Goat

Wow! That’s a surprise a Whitehall government not keeping it’s promise to the North and only thinking of the South, it’s never happened before?

By The North, knowingly undersold.

Manchester has what it wants. The sudden insistence on an underground high speed station, and for the less profitable, more expensive Manchester – Leeds portion to be built first were transparently driving up the cost, and driving down the deliverability.

The last thing Manchester’s authorities would want is Liverpool being connected to HS2. For the past 30 years they and the treasury have been as one, and any notion they don’t know fine well what’s going on is nonsense.

By Jeff

Levelling Up will only focus on Manchester, whether the power is held by the Tories or Labour, and this will tick their box for them to say we have put money into the North.
The best NPR can hope for is the Manchester-Leeds upgrade, because as the article says money is being sucked into the HS2 pot.
Just to remind people Liverpool will not get one penny spent on grand stations , rail lines , tunnels , any infrastructure at all, while GM gets tunnels , lines , and 3 stations including Wigan and the airport.

By Anonymous

They are also due to cancel the Eastern leg from Birmingham of HS2. It doesn’t help having bolshy Labour mayors all over the North. Watch Birmingham get everything now because they have a Tory mayor. Manchester is too far ahead of the game for it to really matter to them but this is a terrible betrayal of cities like Sheffield, Bradford and Hull. They will remain badly connected and left behind.

By Elephant

The Government must overrule the Whitehall civil servants who are looking to protect their jobs. Liverpool hasn’t even identified a location for the new station that would be required for HS2 and NPR. Getting containers from Liverpool 2, onto the railways must play a part in the planning whereby the new lines free up capacity on the existing ones.

By Forward Thinker

Liverpool will get HS2 trains into Lime Street from day 1 so less misleading nonsense about being left out please.

By Guff

Intra-city connections, trams, metro rail, and smarter motorways with capacity driven up by automation is the better bet. Who really thought the government would deliver on all these seriously big ticket rail infrastructure proposals

By Anonymous

A lot of bad vibes being directed at Manchester here, personally I think the whole of the North will once again get the short straw……the government doesn’t care about anything up here. I’m no rail expert but everything I’ve read states that sorting out the rail congestion in the GM area is crucial to having an efficient rail infrastructure for the whole of the north. From what I understand the congestion in the Manchester area has consequences with regards to capacity from Liverpool all the way up to Newcastle.

By Manc Man