North East Devolution and Levelling Up

North leaders seek meeting with ministers over rail investment

Frustrated northern leaders are to seek a meeting with ministers over the latest delay to multi-billion pound plans for rail improvements in the region.

Members of the board of Transport of the North (TfN), including North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, are worried that publication of the government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), originally due late last year, is slipping further into the future, threatening not just the timetable but the extent of rail investment in the region.

The IRP will cover both the Trans-Pennine Northern Powerhouse Rail (NRP) scheme and the eastern leg of the high-speed rail project (HS2b) from Birmingham to Leeds, enabling high-speed trains to run further north on existing tracks to York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.

The TfN board was warned today that the IRP might not be published until late this year, with completion of the strategic outline case coming as much as 18 months after that.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham warned the board that seven years after the north of England was promised transformational rail investment by then Chancellor George Osborne, there was still no cash committed and he was worried that the region was being pushed into a corner where it would be forced to accept sub-optimal compromises.