Government announces 'biggest ever' £96bn investment in rail network

The Government says a new £96bn plan for rail will deliver journey times which are ‘similar to, the same as, or faster’ than HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail ‘while doubling or trebling capacity’.

By David Walsh
Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 10:30 pm

And they will arrive up to 10 years sooner.

The Integrated Rail Plan, published tomorrow (Thursday), is ‘the biggest ever public investment in the network’ and will improve connections between major cities and on shorter routes, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis warns levelling up will 'fail utterly' without ...

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. Pic: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

But Northern leaders have condemned it for axing HS2 through Yorkshire and ditching a new high speed line between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford.

This week, South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis said without both, the Government’s flagship levelling up policy would ‘fail utterly’.

He added: “This is an absolutely critical test of ‘levelling up’. If these reports are confirmed, then the Government has utterly failed that test. They will have broken the Prime Minister’s own pledge and reneged on the promises made to thousands of voters across the North.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “If we are to see levelling up in action now, we must rapidly transform the services that matter to people most.

“That’s why the Integrated Rail Plan will be the biggest transport investment programme in a century, delivering meaningful transport connections for more passengers across the country, more quickly – with both high-speed journeys and better local services, it will ensure no town or city is left behind.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Throughout the pandemic, we stood by our railway and invested billions to keep the country moving, and we are about to unleash a £96 billion programme of investment that will transform a Victorian network into one befitting a modern country.”

The IRP includes £360m for London-style contactless ticketing across commuter rail networks to deliver price-capped integrated ticketing with local buses and trams.

The Integrated Rail Plan was expected in December last year but suffered months of delays. It is also seen as a key pillar of the levelling-up agenda.

The £106bn HS2 network was due to be built in stages, with the final leg to Leeds completed by 2040. Northern Powerhouse Rail set to cost between £42bn and £27bn.

Last year, the National Infrastructure Commission said the focus should be on rail links between cities, sparking fears the eastern leg could be scrapped.

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