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Political and transport leaders from Northern England have written a letter to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, to propose a way forward following the publication of the government’s rail investment plans earlier this month.
The region’s leaders were unanimous in their disappointment in plans revealed in the Integrated Rail Plan, which saw HS2’s Eastern-leg to Leeds running largely on existing track, and Northern Powerhouse Rail reduced a short stretch of high-speed track between Warrington and Greater Manchester. Transport for the North’s Board said proposals represented a breach of promises made of high-speed rail links and differ from preferred options set out in statutory advice to the Department for Transport.
In a letter, TfN’s Board advises that to retain the long-term ambition of ‘levelling-up’ the region’s economy, infrastructure and transport restraints in the North regarding rail capacity must be addressed.
The letter is available to read in full from the TfN website.
Cllr Louise Gittins, TfN Interim Chair and Cheshire West and Chester Council Leader, said:
“The North has spoken with one voice to make it clear that the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan in its current form is not acceptable. That is why our statutory advice to Government is clear that they must think again. Instead of this top-down centralised approach they need to reach out and work with local communities, and businesses.
“Despite our deep concerns that the IRP is woefully inadequate, the TfN Board unanimously agreed that it wishes to explore with Government funding options for the delivery of the preferred NPR: options could include local contributions, including through harnessing local economic benefits.
“We still believe that there is a way forward that will enable them to collaboratively move at pace to prioritise and sequence investment in a way that delivers the early foundations of a modernised rail system for the region. Instead of what looks like years of rail delays to build a network that by the time its finished will not be fit for purpose.
“TfN Board Members remain committed to the long-term ambition for improving connectivity across the North and with the Midlands. We remain firm in our collective belief that the Board’s preferred approach to HS2 and NPR best reflects the unique opportunity to unleash the potential of the North, addresses the imbalance in the quality and extent of the rail infrastructure across the UK, and achieves real, positive, and lasting change for the region.”