With the release of the highly anticipated Integrated Rail Plan for the North and the Midlands, the Government has confirmed the HS2 eastern leg to Leeds has been scrapped, with HS2 stopping near Nottingham.
This cuts down the original plan to connect London through to the centres of Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. The scaled back plans have angered businesses and seen claims of broken promises.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has instead revealed a plan he says will provide “faster journeys, increased capacity and more frequent services, up to 10 years sooner than previously planned” with HS2.
The Integrated Rail Plan outlines a £96 billion programme which the Government says will transform rail services in the North and the Midlands.
The new blueprint delivers 3 high-speed lines: Crewe to Manchester, Birmingham to the East Midlands (with HS2 trains continuing to central Nottingham and central Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield on an upgraded main line), and a new high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester and to the western border of Yorkshire.
The Integrated Rail Plan also sets out to fully electrify and upgrade 2 diesel main lines – the Midlands Main Line and the Transpennine Main Line – as well as upgrading a third main line – the East Coast – with higher speeds, power improvements and digital signalling.
For Northern Powerhouse Rail, Government have chosen the first of the options put forward by Transport for the North (TfN) in 2019, a mixture of newbuild high-speed and upgraded conventional line.
Government said TfN’s options for full newbuild high-speed line were carefully studied but would have made journeys between Leeds and Manchester only 4 minutes faster at a cost of an extra £18 billion, and taken up to a decade longer to deliver.
Commitments were also made to a new mass transit system for Leeds and West Yorkshire.
Responding to the Integrated Rail Plan, the Mayor of West Yorkshire said: “Today’s announcement is a betrayal of the Government’s levelling up promise. It does not support the Northern leaders’ ambitions for a stronger, fairer and better-connected North that meets the challenge of the climate emergency.
“Delivering HS2 in full to Leeds and a new high-speed rail line across the Pennines, with a crucial city-centre stop in Bradford, would have been the economic shot-in-the-arm our region desperately needed. It would have turbo-charged the whole of the UK economy in a post Brexit age.
“Today, the Government has not listened to Northern voices and instead brought forward their own plans that mean HS2 stops short of Yorkshire, and the new high speed from Manchester line stops at its border.
“We are told this is one of the single biggest acts of levelling up of any Government in history. Yet, Government is still working out how to connect Leeds, after a decade of work. And today’s announcement leaves the great city of Bradford on a branch line to the national network. That is not levelling up. Instead of new lines built for the 21st century, we’re being offered a 20th century upgrade to existing infrastructure.
“Passengers in the North could face another decade of uncertainty and disruption as upgrades impact our existing services and create uncertainty for investors. This is not the Crossrail of the North.
“The Government suggests that these improvements will be delivered quicker than the plans the North had proposed. Yet still thinks it needs another new study to get high speed trains to Leeds – how much longer will that take and is the last ten years not long enough?
“The news about the Transpennine upgrade is welcome. But commitments to electrify the Transpennine route date back to 2011, and it is unclear from today’s document what exactly will be delivered and when. Likewise Midland Mainline electrification, announced again today, was committed in 2012 and then cancelled in July 2017.
“I also welcome the support for our plans for a mass transit system for West Yorkshire. But we have been here before, with one government committing to the project, only for future ones to overturn it. Our region needs a long-term, multi-parliament commitment that will deliver on this promise. And mass transit is a not a substitute for an integrated rail network and nor will it take freight off our busy roads.
“Integrated transport should make people’s lives easier, boosting their life choices and aspirations. People across the North were excited by the opportunities these rail links would bring.”
Today Shapps said: “I am proud to announce our Integrated Rail Plan. A £96 billion programme which will transform rail services in the North and the Midlands, the largest single rail investment ever made by a UK government. An investment that rather being felt decades into the future, but much, much sooner.
“This unprecedented commitment to build a world-class railway that delivers for passengers and freight, for towns and cities, for communities and businesses, will benefit 8 out of the top 10 busiest rail corridors across the North and Midlands, providing faster journeys, increased capacity and more frequent services, up to 10 years sooner than previously planned.
“When I became Transport Secretary in 2019, the HS2 project was already about 10 years old. I was concerned that costs were rising and that newer projects like Midlands Rail Hub and Northern Powerhouse Rail hadn’t been fully factored into the plans.
“Under the original scheme, the HS2 track would not have reached the East Midlands or the North until the early 2040s. Clearly, a rethink was needed to make sure the project would deliver for the regions that it served as soon as possible.
“This is how the Integrated Rail Plan was born – a desire to deliver sooner – and so the Prime Minister and I asked Douglas Oakervee to lead the work and make recommendations on the best way forward. One of his key criticisms was that HS2 was designed in isolation from the rest of the transport network.
“The original plans gave us high-speed lines to the East Midlands, but it didn’t serve any of the East Midlands’ 3 main cities, for example. If you wanted to get to Nottingham or Derby, you would have had to go to a parkway station and change on to a local tram or train.
“Oakervee made a clear and very convincing case for considering HS2 as part of an integrated rail plan should work alongside local, regional and national services, not just those travelling between our biggest cities. We accepted those recommendations and asked the National Infrastructure Commission to develop options.
“The Commission reported back with 2 key suggestions. First, that we adopt a flexible approach, initially setting out a core integrated rail network. But that we remain open to future additions as long as expectations on costs and timing were met.
“Second, that strengthening regional rail links would be most economically beneficial for the North and the Midlands. Connecting towns with the main rail network, bringing hope and opportunity to communities who for too long have felt left behind. And we should seek to bring those benefits to passengers and local economies as soon as possible.
“These, then, were the guiding principles behind the Integrated Rail Plan I’m announcing today. An ambitious and unparalleled programme that not only overhauls the inter-city links across the North and Midlands. But that also speeds up the benefits for local areas and serves the destinations people most want to reach.
“This new blueprint delivers 3 high-speed lines. First, Crewe to Manchester. Second, Birmingham to the East Midlands, with HS2 trains continuing to central Nottingham and central Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield on an upgraded main line. And third, a brand new high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester and to the western border of Yorkshire, slashing journey times across the North of England.
“I’ve heard some people say we are just electrifying the Transpennine Route. This is wrong. What we’re actually doing is investing £23 billion to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Transpennine Route Upgrade, unlocking east to west travel across the north of England.
“So in total, this package is 110 miles of new high-speed line. All of it in the Midlands and the North. It is 180 miles of newly-electrified line. All of it in the Midlands and North.
“We will upgrade the East Coast Main Line, with a package of investment on track improvements and digital signalling, bringing down journey times between London, Leeds, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh, bringing benefits to the North East much much sooner than under previous plans. And adds capacity and speeds up services over more than 400 miles of line, the vast majority of it in the Midlands and North.
“We will study how best to take HS2 trains into Leeds as well. And we will start work on a new West Yorkshire mass transit system – righting the wrong of this major city – probably the largest in Europe – which doesn’t have a mass transit system. We commit today to supporting West Yorkshire Combined Authority over the long term to ensure that this time, it actually gets done.
“In short, Mr Speaker, we are about to embark on the biggest single acts of levelling up of any government in history. It is 5 times than what was spent on Crossrail, 10 times than what was spent on the Olympics.
“It will achieve the same, similar or faster journey times to London and on the core Northern Powerhouse Rail network than the original proposals and will bring the benefits years earlier, as well as doubling, or in some cases tripling, capacity.
“Let me set out a few of these investments:
- rail journeys between Birmingham and Nottingham cut from an hour and a quarter to 26 minutes. City centre to city centre
- journeys between York and Manchester down to 55 minutes, from 83 minutes today
- commuters will be able to get from Bradford to Leeds in just 12 minutes – almost half the time it takes today
- there will be earlier benefits for places like Sheffield and Chesterfield
- trips from Newcastle to Birmingham will be slashed by almost 30 minutes and passengers in Durham and Darlington will benefit from smoother, more reliable trains
“As the IRP delivers not just for our largest cities, but also for smaller places and towns. Places such as Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Grantham, Newark, Retford, Doncaster, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Stalybridge could all see improvements, electrification or faster services, benefitting in ways that they would not have done under the previous HS2 programme.
“We’re not stopping there. Today’s plan is about those places which connect and interact with HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. The scale of ambition with many of these projects lies outside the scope of this plan.
“Just yesterday I opened the first Beeching reversal. Reversing the Beeching acts. And we are going to be doing the same in Northumberland – the Ashington, Blyth, Newcastle line. We’re investing £2 billion in cycling and walking, £3 billion in turn-up-and-go bus services. And 10s of billions to upgrade our country’s roads.
“After so many decades of decline, constrained capacity and poor reliability, finally, this plan will give passengers in the North and Midlands the services they need and deserve.
“It’s not just about infrastructure, we’re going to make train travel much easier as well. Today, I can confirm £360 million to reform fares and ticketing with the rollout of contactless, pay-as-you-go ticketing at 700 urban stations, including around 400 in the North.
“This is a landmark plan, by far the biggest of any network improvement and focused on the North and Midlands, with more seats, more frequent services, and shorter journeys that meets the needs of both today’s passengers and future generations.
“And we’re getting started immediately today with another £625 million for the electrification between Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, bringing the total on the Transpennine Route Upgrade to £2 billion and counting. And £249 million to further electrify the Midland Main Line between Kettering and Market Harborough with work starting on the Integrated Rail Plan by Christmas, Mr Speaker.
“Communities of every size will benefit, right across the North and the benefit, in many cases years earlier than planned by taking a fresh look at HS2 and how it fits with the rest of the rail system. We’ll be able to build a much-improved railway that will provide similar or better services to almost every destination than the outdated vision drawn up for HS2 over a decade ago.
“This plan will bring the North and Midlands closer together and fire up their economies to rival London and the South East. It will rebalance our economic geography. It will spread opportunity. It will level up our country. And it will bring benefits at least a decade or more earlier.”
Responding to the announcement, Richard Blackmore, CBI Midlands Director, said: “High quality infrastructure is fundamental to rising living standards and levelling up the country. The Integrated Rail Plan is a significant investment that will go some way towards modernising our ageing rail networks and can be delivered at pace.
“But businesses across the Midlands and Northern England will be justifiably disappointed to see the goalposts have moved at the eleventh hour, and concerned that some of the areas most sorely in need of development will lose out as a result of the scaled back plans.”
Cllr James Lewis, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “After more than 10 years of effort, investment and planning based on the government’s clear proposal to bring HS2 to Leeds, we have been left extremely disappointed and frustrated by today’s announcement which only offers more studies, reviews and uncertainty for high-speed connections to our city – but, sadly, we are not surprised.
“This is not the first time our city has been promised major infrastructure investment, only for it to be curtailed or cancelled. It is 10 years this month since the Transpennine Route upgrade was announced, yet we are still waiting for the fully-defined scheme, and it is 30 years since the idea of a ‘supertram’ was first mentioned.
“So we will reserve judgement on delivery until we see spades in the ground. The Leeds-Sheffield connection is the most advanced and shovel-ready section of HS2 and NPR, and will bring immediate benefits between two core cities along with benefiting many communities in between by freeing up capacity on local routes. We already know there is no capacity to bring more trains into Leeds from the West and no more land available either. We are calling for the Leeds to Sheffield work to be fast-tracked and delivered without delay whilst the Government carries out yet more studies or reviews.
“Despite these setbacks, we will continue to deliver for the people and businesses of Leeds. As a city we continue to grow and consistently punch above our weight. We remain one of only two core cities outside of London that are net contributors to the Treasury, and there is a real confidence in our city, welcoming a wealth of major businesses and institutions in recent years. We will use these new opportunities to continue our economic growth and recovery, and work with any businesses affected by this uncertainty to stay and grow in the city.
“A great irony is that confidence in our city can also be illustrated by the growing rail passenger numbers at Leeds Station, which are way above pre-covid levels on weekends and approaching pre-covid levels during the week, bucking national trends. This clearly demonstrates not only the need for investment in the existing station to manage current capacity but also commitment to deliver a new station in Leeds as part of any revised high speed proposals brought forward, and investment in our current rail network, making us ‘next generation rail ready’ to accommodate future demand.
“The initial funding for mass transit is welcomed, because there is a need to enhance connectivity across our city and with neighbouring areas, and with 75% of passengers travelling to Leeds Station from outside the district there is also a clear and immediate need to improve rail provision because of the demand we face now and in the future.
“Alongside this, we will be calling for an urgent review of safeguarded land across the city that will bring greater certainty and allow us to move forward, alongside a fundamental reform of the way transport policy decisions are being made.
“If the people drafting national policy used our station and knew the city, they would make better decisions. The Department for Transport’s arrival in Leeds earlier this year is already a positive step because we can help develop a greater understanding of our city’s needs and challenges. We remain determined to make sure that this is the last time a major project benefiting Leeds is cancelled.”
Mayor of South Yorkshire, Dan Jarvis, said: “Today should have been a landmark moment for the North. The moment the Government showed the bravery and courage to fix one of the greatest injustices in our country: fixing the generational and deep inequality between our regions, and the chronic underinvestment in our people and economy.
“Instead, what we heard from the Government was a package of broken promises, reannouncements and spin. Today’s announcement is bad news for passengers, bad news for businesses and bad news for the North. The Prime Minister is fooling no one if he thinks people in South Yorkshire and the North will believe this is a good deal.
“South Yorkshires faces a lot of pain, and precious little gain. It speaks volumes that the main commitment to our region was re-announced improvements to the Hope Valley Line and Midland Mainline – a programme that has already been cancelled twice by Ministers.
“This tells you everything you need to know about this Government. Yet again, they’ve abandoned the transformational changes needed for levelling up in favour of a cut-price, quick fix. The driving concern seems to be PR, not actual progress. People in South Yorkshire and across the North will know his Government has not lived up to their promises. No one in the North should believe a word they say again.”