Final route for Northern Powerhouse Rail agreed - but rail body agrees to delay crucial report

The North’s leaders have agreed a final route for Northern Powerhouse Rail but will delay submitting the business case for it - raising fears the project could be downgraded.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 4:55 pm

Transport for the North has written to Government with its official plan for rail investment over the coming decades.

They say now is not the time to scale back ambitions and Government should commit to building HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full.

But, at the request of the Department for Transport, they will delay submitting the business case for NPR.

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Tim Wood, Northern Powerhouse Rail director at Transport for the North.

The DfT says it will ‘ensure the rapid alignment of plans and swifter progress’.

But campaigners fear it is a way to spend less on the project. The most expensive version of NPR is estimated to cost £42bn, the cheapest £27bn.

The recommendations come ahead of the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan. Due out this month, it is expected to set out long-term investment plans.

But campaigners fear the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds will be kicked into the long grass. And delaying the business case for NPR could be a blow to a vision of upgraded rail links helping to ‘level up’ the North.

TfN says NPR would add £14.4 billion to the UK economy by 2060, create up to 74,000 jobs by 2060 and take the equivalent of 58,000 cars off the road.

A TfN spokesman said: “At the request of the Department for Transport, we have agreed to delay submitting the business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail until the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan has been published.

“As well as making specific recommendations on the preferred routes, the North’s leaders have also sought assurances that they’ll continue to have a full joint leadership role in the programme.”

TfN’s final Northern Powerhouse Rail network includes:

- Connecting Sheffield to HS2 and on to Leeds

- Significant upgrades to the Hope Valley route between Manchester and Sheffield

- Significant upgrades and electrification of the rail lines from Leeds and Sheffield to Hull

- Extension of tram train services from Rotherham Parkgate to Doncaster

- A new line from Liverpool to Manchester via the centre of Warrington

- A new line from Manchester to Leeds via the centre of Bradford

- Upgrades of the East Coast Mainline from Leeds to Newcastle.

Tim Wood, Northern Powerhouse Rail director at Transport for the North, said it was the culmination of years of work.

He added: “Communities and businesses want to see certainty on what will be delivered and when, in order to make key investment decisions and create new opportunities.

“We hope that the significant body of evidence, worked up alongside the Department for Transport, will be reflected in an ambitious commitment to investment in the North in the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan.

“We can then swiftly press on with joint delivery for the Northern public. We’ve done the work together, now let’s get on and deliver for the North together.”

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.