Manchester Train View, C Fraser Cottrell Via Unsplash
The government's revised rail plan cuts a new Manchester-Leeds line and the eastern leg of HS2 in favour of improving existing infrastructure. Credit: Fraser Cottrell via Unsplash

The North reacts to government’s ‘second-class’ Integrated Rail Plan

Julia Hatmaker

The Integrated Rail Plan revises both the Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 plans in order to bring about faster change more efficiently.

Read more about the actual plan and the logic behind it 

Industry leaders in the North shared their thoughts on IRP with Place North West. 

Henri Murison, Northern Powerhouse Partnership director

“The Integrated Rail Plan is a huge moment for the North, and the announcement of the new line from Warrington through Manchester to Marsden, as well as the confirmation of HS2 in the west coming to Manchester and Manchester Airport, is welcome.

“However, the lack of a full new line across the Pennines will dramatically reduce the capacity and potential for rapid economic growth, in particular in the cities of Leeds and Bradford. What Northern leaders had proposed was an economically transformational vision. What we have is, as ever, second class.

“The complete failure to deliver the Eastern leg of HS2 in the North is a major blow – another review is not what the North has consistently and coherently called for. We will continue to fight for HS2 in the North, which needs to be a phased project starting with a brand-new line from Leeds to Clayton, alongside the immediate electrification of the conventional line between Leeds and Sheffield.

“In addition, the lack of commitment to the Leamside Line means the benefits of Northern Powerhouse Rail to the North East are significantly constrained – this must be delivered to ensure the whole of the North benefits from rail investment.”

Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool City Region

“The Integrated Rail Plan was a once in a generation opportunity to revolutionise our country’s rail network. Properly delivered, it had the potential to be as transformative for rail travel as Stephenson’s Rocket. Instead, they have proposed a service that could have been promoted by Gladstone in the Victorian era.

“What we have seen is a government pretending to deliver that transformation but doing it on the cheap. Communities across the North have been held back for decades, forced to accept sticking plaster solutions and grossly underfunded by government. Today’s announcement is a continuation of that.

“Earlier this year, I warned that the government were heading towards this path; that they would try to force us to accept a cheap and nasty option that would be detrimental, not only to our region, but to the wider North and UK as a whole.

“It won’t deliver the £16bn of economic benefit we were promised; it won’t free up freight capacity or take heavily-polluting HGVs off the road, and it won’t help connect our region with opportunities across the country. Instead, it looks set to cause us all of the pain of years-long disruption with none of the benefits on the other side – and won’t be delivered any faster than existing plans.

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor are both on record talking about the vital importance of NPR to the North’s prospects. What does it say to 15m people across the North when they have chosen not to deliver it?

“It’s not too late to fix this. My door is open if the government are serious about levelling up the North and want to engage with us.”

Sir Roger Marsh, chair of the business voice for the North NP11 group of Northern Local Enterprise Partnerships and of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership

“Naturally I am disappointed that our communities will not now benefit from the once-in-a-generation opportunity that Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 in full represented.

“Historic underinvestment in transport has held back the North’s potential for decades, costing UK plc hundreds of billions of pounds of lost economic output while levelling down living standards.

“While the Integrated Rail Plan does confirm some welcome investment in several parts of the North, this will not deliver the transformational boost to rail capacity and connectivity that these two major schemes offered.

“It is true that the North needs to see transport investment now, not just in 20 years’ time, however, our position has always been clear that to truly level up the North and deliver the economic growth we can and want to achieve, we need the full package of local, regional and pan-northern investment that successive governments have promised.

“We will continue to work with northern leaders, MPs and businesses to make the case for this investment and in the meantime will be holding the government to its word that the people and businesses of the North will see the benefits of the investment confirmed today immediately.”

Clare Hayward, chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP

“We welcome the greater certainty that the Integrated Rail Plan provides on the Crewe HS2 hub, its strategic location nationally, and the inclusion of the Crewe Northern Connection within the HS2 programme.

“We also welcome the confirmation of a new Northern Powerhouse Rail line and station which will allow easy interchange with Warrington Back Quay Station, connecting Warrington with Manchester Airport and Manchester via HS2. We now want to work with Government to ensure that all of our communities and residents can benefit from these and other investments announced today.

“Wider connectivity across a fully connected North will allow Cheshire and Warrington to achieve its full potential.  We note that some of the major schemes for the North will not now go ahead, but that alternatives are being proposed.  We will be taking time to properly consider the detail of the plan, the implications of these alternatives and what they mean for our communities and businesses.”

Damian Waters, CBI North West director

“High-quality infrastructure is fundamental to raising living standards and levelling up the country.

“The Integrated Rail Plan is a significant investment that will go some way towards modernising our ageing rail networks and can be delivered at pace.

“But businesses across the Midlands and Northern England will be justifiably disappointed to see the goalposts have moved at the eleventh hour, and concerned that some of the areas most sorely in need of development will lose out as a result of the scaled-back plans.”

Jeremy Hinds, Savills planning director

“Although it is disappointing from the perspective of Yorkshire that there will not be a high-speed connection to London, there are significant benefits in exploring the interconnectivity between cities along the transpennine route connecting Liverpool to Hull. Although the investment could go further, including, for example, exploring links with Bradford and other cities along the route, there is a strong case to argue for the benefits of interconnectivity between the major towns and cities of the North, rather than providing high-speed linkages to London.”

Steve Hogg, head of JLL in the North West

“Following the budget last month, the scrapping of Northern Powerhouse Rail and the eastern leg of HS2 only serves to further undermine the government’s manifesto pledge to level up the regions. Despite some concessions for the North within the plan, a step-change in inter-city connectivity cannot be achieved without laying significant new line to take the pressure off local ones.

“While physical connectivity is a key engine of regional prosperity, we shouldn’t view it as a panacea. Much has been achieved by devolved local governments in the seven years since Northern Powerhouse Rail was first mooted, and I suspect today will do little to derail the high levels of investment in innovation, regeneration and digital connectivity that will be central to improved productivity and future growth.”

Stephen Church, North markets leader and Manchester office managing partner at EY

“As businesses continue to invest and grow across the whole North region, improved transport infrastructure and rail connectivity are essential to ensure the maximum economic impact from such developments is unlocked.

“Although positives can be drawn from the IRP, including the two new high-speed lines planned between Crewe to Manchester and Warrington to Manchester – which are vital links into the city – and the electrification of lines across Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, today’s announcement will leave many feeling more must be done.

“Whatever the final plan will look like, it’s important that it benefits and enhances the lives of people who live and work in the North, especially given announced delays to the HS2 eastern leg. To truly level up the region, the integrated rail plan must allow people to travel efficiently between areas, and make informed travel choices that support the country’s net zero ambitions.

“In turn, today’s announcement has created even more anticipation for the delayed white paper on levelling up. Now is the time to turn good-willed policy aimed at tackling entrenched regional inequalities and closing the skills gap into meaningful action.”

Mark Southwell, managing director of civil infrastructure for UK and Ireland with Aecom

“At last the government has shared its vision for rail investment across the North and Midlands. The decision not to deliver High Speed 2 in full and a scaled-back amount of new line for Northern Powerhouse Rail is a lost opportunity for the communities the lines would serve, as well as the rail industry which was geared up to deliver. Decarbonisation of our transport network and levelling up are two of the biggest challenges of our time and investment in a high-speed rail network will pay dividends for decades to come.

“However, there is much to welcome in today’s Integrated Rail Plan in terms of its ambition to rapidly strengthen connections between regional towns and cities, providing a catalyst for investment in areas that will bring in businesses, jobs and housing. For so many years the North and Midlands have suffered from terrible rail connections and the sooner these communities get new rail, the sooner they benefit.

“The new lines and upgrades announced today will still make a hugely positive contribution in terms of improving connectivity, increasing opportunity and enabling the important modal shift to public transport that we need to reach net-zero. Industry’s focus must now turn to delivery.

“Rail projects initiated and driven at a local level in partnerships between industry and devolved authorities break the delivery mould and enable us to look at how we can build new rail projects faster and more efficiently. AECOM is already working on schemes in this way that will bring benefits to communities within unprecedented timescales.

“Industry and government now need to work together to formulate a clear plan for how these rail schemes will be delivered. The sooner spades are in the ground, the sooner communities can benefit from the full impact of the benefits rail can bring.”

Your Comments

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The argument against upgrading the trans Pennine was that it would result in years of disruption and line closures. So a brand new line would have bypassed these issues. I can’t see how they are going to do the upgrade without the anticipated disruption

By Phil Turtle

You only have to look at the timelines involved to see most of what the government have claimed they want to do won’t even happen.

Why would it take until 2045 just to electrify fiddlers ferry line, and build a few miles of track from Warrington to the HS2 line (the section of which is supposed to be complete early 2030)?

As it stands in 2035 over a £100bn will have been spent building a railway line that links only Manchester, Birmingham and London.

By Jeff

This will accentuate the growing East/West divide in the North. The North West has nothing to complain about from these announcements and Manchester will have its own Crossrail with the HS line from Warrington to Marsden. Where will the stops be on this new line, on both sides of Manchester?

By Elephant

Anyone who thinks the “north west” has nothing to complain about either doesn’t know that 5 million people don’t like in Manchester, with nearly 2 million of them living in Liverpool, or they haven’t read the proposals!!

Levelling up turns out to be one of those double-speak things that means the opposite to any honest intent.

I suppose we should have known that when the departments first act was to tell Wirral MBC they should haven’t been so spendthrift with the tuppence they were given…

By Jeff

Point taken Jeff my comment was flippant.

By Elephant

More of the same, as to be expected, Tories continue to ignore the north and treat us like a second class.

Why did people vote for this??!

By .

Qu. ”I can’t see how they are going to do the upgrade without the anticipated disruption”.
Ans. I cant’s see how they are going to bother do an upgrade at all!

By Mr Beeching

Manchester has done very well out of the IRP announcement and gets it`s full HS2 service, meanwhile Leeds misses out and must now access London via Manchester.
What the various governments have done over recent decades is turn Manchester into an important rail hub in the way Crewe used to be, and this has, and will, benefit the Manchester economy no end. In a similar way the government has now provided HS2 right to the doorstep of Manchester airport, all free of charge, and this too will benefit Manchester, which will surely see increased revenue from the airport , which is then shared out amongst the GM local authorities.
Surely this is not a level playing field.

By Anonymous