BoJo to Unveil Rail Strategy for Midlands as Gov't Scraps Part of Flagship HS2 Network
08:30 GMT 18.11.2021 (Updated: 21:39 GMT 18.10.2022)
Earlier this week, the UK Department of Transport said that "the full HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail schemes would not enter service until the early to mid-2040s", prompting flak from northern Conservative lawmakers.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to unveil the government's new rail strategy
for the Midlands and the north of England later on Thursday.
The Integrated Rail Plan was earlier touted by Johnson as "the biggest ever" public investment in the rail network, which involves £96 billion ($129 billion) in funding for new routes in the North and the Midlands.
Earlier on Thursday, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the government's intention to curtail the eastern leg of the flagship high-speed HS2 network and scrap the Northern Powerhouse trans-Pennine route, something that earlier provoked backlash from northern Tory lawmakers.
In a message to the House of Commons, Shapps praised the new rail plan as “ambitious and unparalleled”, something that he said would speed up intercity connections and improve local services.
In a recent a press release with no details of the Integrated Rail Review, the British Department of Transport said the new plan was drawn up "after it became clear that the full HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail schemes as originally proposed would not enter service until the early to mid-2040s".
28 December 2019, 12:52 GMT
High Speed 2 pertains to a planned high-speed railway line, originally meant to connect London with the city centres of Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds.
The press release insisted that the new rail blueprint would deliver journey times "similar or faster" than the original HS2 and Manchester-Leeds schemes.
Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) Henri Murison reacted angrily to the announcement, arguing that "watering down Northern Powerhouse Rail for the sake of only 10% of the overall original budget of £39 billion ($52 billion) is unforgivably short-sighted from the Treasury".
He recalled that the government had earlier pledged "a new line between Manchester and Leeds, which could have included a stop in Bradford, one of the UK's most dynamic cities, where productivity is held back by woefully bad transport connections".
Murison added that currently, "it looks like we're only getting an upgrade, which will do nothing to solve the capacity problem on this key stretch of the route".
"We won't be hoodwinked into believing we're getting £96 billion for a transport revolution in the North", he said.
"The reported loss of any of the new line on the eastern leg of HS2 is damaging, reducing the benefits of the section being built now between Birmingham and London. Without the benefits to areas such as Yorkshire and the North East, HS2's status as a project to drive the whole of the UK is undermined considerably", the NPP director claimed.
He was echoed by Martin Tugwell, chief executive of the Transport for the North, the first statutory sub-national transport body in the UK, who told The Independent that they were "aware of speculation on the details of what may or may not be contained within" the Integrated Rail Review.
"If the rumours are true, then it is deeply worrying because it means we won't have the benefit of that comprehensive transformation of the rail network that will make all the difference to our region's people and businesses", Tugwell emphasised.
Shipley MP Philip Davies struck the same tone by asserting that scrapping Northern Powerhouse Rail, also known as HS3, would "be a massive disappointment and a huge missed opportunity".