Boris Johnson

Reaction as Johnson pledges to back Northern Powerhouse Rail

Boris Johnson’s promise to fund the high-speed rail route between Manchester and Leeds has been met with optimism from transport bodies but Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has questioned the focus on Transpennine connectivity over routes linking Liverpool and Manchester.

The Prime Minister announced the Government’s backing for the scheme in a speech over the weekend, Johnson said: “I want to be the Prime Minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did for Crossrail in London”.

Northern Powerhouse Rail was already due to feature in Autumn’s Government Spending Review, and Johnson’s pledge for funding has been welcomed by many Northern transport bodies and developers.

The key part of the route in Johnson’s pledge runs from Manchester to Leeds via Bradford via a new rail line; Transport for the North’s wider vision is also expected to include a new line from Liverpool to Manchester Airport and Crewe. However, this was not mentioned in the Prime Minister’s speech.

As a result, reaction from Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram was mixed, with the mayor arguing the Liverpool to Manchester leg of the scheme was “by far and away the most readily deliverable section and the one that can be built fastest”.

Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership claimed Johnson’s announcement was a “seminal moment” for the North while TfN’s chief executive Barry White said it was “a major leap forward”.

See below for full reaction and comment


Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor

“Northern Powerhouse Rail is vital to the North’s future economic success, supporting 850,000 new jobs by 2050 and an extra £100bn into the economy. However, in order to achieve these gains, we need a whole network connecting the West to the East, not just one leg of it in isolation as this announcement suggests.

“The Government must understand that the North simply will not accept anything less than a full NPR network and the jury is still out on their commitment to delivering that.

“Given the new PM’s stated enthusiasm for a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal, I’m surprised that building freight capacity via the Port of Liverpool – the North’s main western-facing port – does not seem to be a priority in this announcement.

“The Liverpool – Manchester leg of NPR is by far and away the most readily deliverable section and the one that can be built fastest.

“As a Liverpool City Region, we are clear that we only support NPR proposals that deliver the whole network along with HS2 and include a new dedicated twin-track line between Liverpool and Manchester and a new station in Liverpool city centre to accommodate HS2 and NPR trains.”


Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North

“The fact that the Prime Minister has today firmly committed to delivering a Northern Powerhouse Rail network is a major leap forward for the North. One our business and political leaders have been working tirelessly to secure for several years.

“Just days into his premiership, Boris Johnson is here in the North promising to invest in our creaking infrastructure. Not just the Manchester to Leeds line, but a whole network from Liverpool to Hull, and from Sheffield up to Newcastle, connecting the towns and cities in between.

“As Transport for the North, we’ll work with the new Government to make that a reality as quickly as we can. Any agreement later this year must include funding commitments for work on the whole network, including new lines and significant upgrades, and it must be made jointly with the North, as Boris Johnson promised.

“Following decades of underinvestment, our plans are bold, ambitious, and would deliver a radical rail network for our towns and cities.

“With the Prime Minister committing to power up the North and rebalance the economy – investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail as well as a raft of local improvements as part of an infrastructure pipeline must now come forward.”


Charlie Cornish, chief executive, Manchester Airports Group

“The Prime Minister’s commitment to build a new rail line between Manchester and Leeds is an important and welcome step towards the creation of Northern Powerhouse Rail.  As well as improving connectivity across the North, the full Northern Powerhouse Rail route, when completed, will make it easier and quicker for people to get to Manchester Airport – the North’s global gateway – which will strengthen global connectivity and international trade links from the North.”


Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership

“This is a seminal moment for the North – the entire Northern Powerhouse concept is all about connecting the cities and towns of the North to boost productivity. Northern Powerhouse Partnership has been making a strong case for rebalancing our economy and it is heartening to see the first major policy announcement by the new Prime Minister is to benefit the North – matching the commitment of businesses already investing here.

“As well as faster journey times, enhanced capacity and greater frequency, the whole Northern Powerhouse Rail as a network will provide opportunities for our young people to secure the skilled jobs we need to drive productivity and link up the great cities of the North to stimulate economic growth.

“A key part of one of the new lines we need is from Manchester to Bradford through to Leeds, which will benefit those in Liverpool and to Manchester Airport when those sections are also built as well as upgrades so trains can travel on from Leeds to Darlington and Newcastle, as well as wider improvements to for instance get to Sheffield by different routes.”

Your Comments

Read our comments policy here

I think Manchester Airport via Manchester to Leeds makes more sense.

By Elephant

They only have 98 days to build it.

By Maurice Thomson

Not going g to happen

By Anonymous

It seems really odd to build a line between Manchester and Leeds without talk of extensions out both sides – especially the Manchester one. This should be a line from Liverpool – John Lennon Airport – MediaCity – (Split) Route A – Manchester – Bradford – Leeds – York, Route B fom MediaCity – Manchester Airport – Stockport – Sheffield

Liverpool needs a fast link to their airport as does Manchester – as well as the other way around. Mediacity needs fast links to the airports, Liverpool and Stockport (lots of journeys to/from London could be shortened by this considberbly) As it also needs a proper fast link to Manchester and following of course to Sheffield and Leeds.

All urban lines should be underground and 4 track stacked. Two tracks for high speed lines and two tracks in the urban area for undergound metro lines. It costs a fortune to dig tunnels, so why not get two systems at the same time to save money.

While this will be expensive, the Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield metro area has 12 million people in 12,000km2 – the equal 3rd largest metropolitan area by population with Germany’s Rhein Rurh and after Paris and London. Much smaller areas have built underground lines.

By EOD

The way the Conservatives get treated in the North I don’t know why they bother.

By Dan

Commitment to the central section of HS3 is welcome but the Liverpool leg is vital. It frees up the North’s great port and unlocks the huge potential connectivity to Liverpool will bring followed by links onwards to Hull and Newcastle.
The Liverpool – Manchester Railway was conceived designed and largely financed from Liverpool nearly two hundred years ago, but it benefited the whole of the north and was the prototype for railways across the world. HS3/Northern Powerhouse rail will similarly transform connectivity and economic prosperity across an area that is bigger than many countries. Sure it will happen in stages but the Liverpool section is the most readily deliverable and will give the biggest bang for your bucks.

By Roscoe

Save your breath lads/lasses, it ain’t getting built under the current Govt (and probably wouldn’t under a Corbyn one either!)

By MancLad

I think the BOJO/Liverpool issues run deep and no great surprise he excluded the city from his speech.

By BDAY

Interesting Leeds Manchester cos of engineering and construction difficulties 15/20 year away ….Liverpool Manchester 5/10 years away ……favour Leeds link …..little expenditure in next decade . The joining of Liverpool Manchester a great opportunity .

By Graham

The issue is superficial. Bojo is electioneering…

By Roscoe

EOD. The places that you mention as having 12 million people are different cities. They are not one continual megalopolis. Liverpool and Manchester are perhaps almost joined but Sheffield and Manchester are separated by high hills. How would we link those two cities realistically underground? Do you want an underground service linking all those four cities? A wonderful thought but we would need 100s of billions of pounds to tunnel between the four city centres.It has cost half a billion to extend the Metrolink to the Trafford centre.

By Elephant

More frequent and slightly faster trains are all we Need (leave home sooner). High-speed rail makes no commercial sense, obviously. But it does not make economic sense either. There is no scientific economic evidence for it. Do not believe the blabber mouths. Do not be fooled again.

By james yates

The last thing we need is more trains. What year is this, 1890? Build more roads, we can afford cars..

By LIV

Boris realises that the ManchesterLeeds axis is the most important economic region outside of London,

By Forward thinking

Its surely the opposite Liv? Build up public transport enough to start discouraging car use unless necessary. Considering how much Cars pollute compared to trains (on a per passenger basis its not even close). Plus less cars on the road would reduce congestion for those that do need to use them.

By Cool Beans.

James Yates – if the Victorians had adopted your approach we would still be traveling by horse and carriage. We need a high speed rail link from Liverpool to Newcastle taking in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull. The North has had a raw deal for to long we need to demand that Westminster put enough funding into Northern railways.

By Lenny1968

Boris Johnson’s former boss Max Hastings said that our new PM showed “cowardice reflected in his willingness to tell any audience whatever he thinks most likely to please heedless of the inevitability of its contradiction”. In other words don’t hold your breath waiting for this to happen.

By Anonymous

Subscribe to our newsletter