Rail upgrade plans dismissed as 'chaotic shambles' by Northern leaders

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The £96bn Integrated Rail Plan will help transform services in the Midlands and northern England, the government said

Leaders from northern England have said the government's Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) is a "missed opportunity" for a once-in-a-century revamp of services.

Transport for the North (TfN) members said the plan unveiled last week was "chaotic" and "not fit for purpose".

The £96bn rail package will see some existing train lines upgraded rather than high-speed track being built.

Some members called on the government to give them the cash to spend on rail projects in the north instead.

The government plans include the scrapping of HS2 from the Midlands to Leeds, with upgrades to existing lines instead.

'Our moment'

At a TfN board meeting in Leeds on Tuesday, leaders from both the Conservatives and Labour vented frustration with the government's scaled -back proposals.

South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis said: "This was our moment and our time to shape our railways for the next 100 years, and that opportunity I fear has been missed."

He said rail users would be left to live with the consequences of the IRP "for generations to come".

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Steve Rotheram (right) called the Integrated Rail Plan a "cheap and nasty" option

Under the IRP, HS2 will be completed from Crewe to Manchester, with new stations at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly.

It will also look at the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail via a new high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden in West Yorkshire.

Some lines will also be electrified.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said it was "a shambles and chaotic".

"Somehow we're now supposed to be grateful for a suboptimal option which is just crumbs off the table," he said, calling the plan "cheap and nasty".

"It is incoherent at best, and a huge disappointment to every single one of us."

Image source, Transport for the North
Image caption,
Transport for the North said only a small part of the Integrated Rail Plan matched their vision for interconnecting rail lines

'Catastrophic for the people'

Hull City Council leader Daren Hale said the people of Hull and East Yorkshire would be "condemned" to use old rail stock.

"It will be catastrophic for the people," he added. "I can't tell you how angry I am. The north have been completely done over by this."

Mayor of the North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll questioned whether people who worked in government knew "where Newcastle and Tyneside are".

He called on the government to devolve the £96bn promised to deliver the project to northern leaders and let them decide how to spend it.

Conservative councillor Charlie Edwards, from Lancashire County Council, agreed about keeping the money in the north of England.

"Lancashire is absolutely gutted for Yorkshire," he said.

"If [the project] stays at £96bn, I want to see that every penny that is allocated is spent in the north."

Meanwhile, transport leader for North Yorkshire County Council Don Mackenzie said the project would bring work to local areas.

"This upgrade of the East Coast Mainline will bring other benefits. It will bring about improvements in digital signalling, based in York. We'll see longer trains by three carriages.

"I think another thing the residents of North Yorkshire want to see is value for money."

'Connecting communities'

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Tracy Brabin called on the government to "think again"

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said the plans were not "fit for purpose" and would be built "on Victorian infrastructure".

She said she was "shocked" at the lack of listening from the government, adding it was a "betrayal of levelling up" for West Yorkshire.

"It doesn't feel fair or transparent or clear. It's not just about connecting cities, it's about connecting communities."

A motion was being put forward to the government to work with TfN on developing the plans.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said it must ensure there was "clear accountability and oversight" which provides significant benefits for passengers as quickly as possible.

"As with all major projects, the programme will be managed by government.

"This ensures it will works closely alongside Network Rail and HS2 Ltd to maximise efficiencies, while ensuring Transport for the North can continue to provide important strategic direction and advice."

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