Boris Johnson has refuted reports that the Government plans to scrap the proposed east-west Northern rail link, saying it is a key plank of the levelling up agenda.
A spokesman from Downing Street on Tuesday said: “We’re getting on top of our priorities of levelling up and investing in northern transport.
The Government is “absolutely committed” to delivering the project, the statement added.
The Department for Transport said: “The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects including HS2 phase 2b and Northern Powerhouse Rail will work together to deliver reliable train services that passengers need and deserve.”
The Integrated Rail Plan, due to be published later this year, is expected to set out the exact details of how Whitehall intends to fund future transport schemes across the UK.
The Sunday Express reported at the weekend that Treasury and DfT officials were meeting two days ago to discuss the future of rail funding. The newspaper cited “well-placed sources” as revealing that available funds have been swallowed up by the HS2 high speed rail project and that the officials intended to “effectively kill” the NPR plan.
Regional rail industry body Transport for the North has described NPR as “future defining”. The proposals include a new line between Manchester and Liverpool, include a cross-Pennine line linking Newcastle, Leeds, Hull and Sheffield with Manchester and Liverpool, upgrades and electrifications of existing services and other work to improve east-west connectivity.
TfN submitted its detailed proposals for the project to the Government earlier this year.
The organisation’s Rail North Committee is meeting this morning to discuss its priorities for the rest of the year. In papers published ahead of the meeting, it states that, among other objectives, it intends to “work closely with the DfT to develop a roadmap that delivers the required interventions and infrastructure to…increase capacity for a future delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail”.
Interim chief executive Tim Wood said in a statement to Place North West on Monday that 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…
“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.”