Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Transport for the North: Northern leaders clash over “inadequate” Integrated Rail Plan

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NORTHERN leaders savaged the Integrated Rail Plan at a meeting in Leeds on Wednesday, calling it “woefully inadequate” – but Carlisle’s MP says the region has a lot to be positive about.

Transport for the North’s board members were meeting in Leeds to discuss the controversial rail improvement plan released by the Government.

The plan rowed back on some improvements promised for the nation’s rail infrastructure. The Integrated Rail Plan sets out how plans like High Speed Rail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will link together.

A new line between Leeds and Manchester was among the pledges not delivered in the document. Northern Powerhouse Rail, a new network for the North of England, was also scaled back. NPR upgrades railway lines and improves journey times.

Speaking at the fiery meeting of Transport for the North, Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Combined Authority mayor, was scathing about the IRP.

He said: “Cutting the funding, condemning us to a Victorian East Coast mainline is probably one of the easiest ways to convince Scotland that Whitehall and Westminster don’t take them seriously.

“£106 bn on HS2, £80 bn on Crossrail, billions and billions more in these schemes.

“The western leg will go as far as Cheshire but that’s not going to help the people of Cheshire get to Newcastle, it’s going to help the people of Newcastle to get to Cheshire. Or the people of Carlisle to get to Lancaster, or Lancaster to get to Hull.

“We are a region and we need to be a regional network.”

He added: “I get so hacked-off that I’m thinking the best thing we can do is to get all of this money devolved to the North and let us decide how to spend it.”

Tracy Brabin, Labour and Co-operative mayor for West Yorkshire said that people in her constituency were angry about the changes: “We know as a region how important Northern Powerhouse Rail is for us, this is not about just connecting cities, it’s absolutely about connecting communities.”

Carlisle MP John Stevenson has defended the Government’s position on rail improvements.

He said: “I think we’ve got to look at the bigger picture, which is £96 billion we understand will be going into our rail infrastructure the bulk of which is in the North.

“I think they should be welcoming it. Yes there’s changes to the initial proposal but we’re still looking to transform the rail infrastructure in the North of England.”

Mr Stevenson said that these are “exciting times for Carlisle”.

“There’s been a criticism that Cumbria hasn’t been mentioned, I think that’s naive.”

He pointed out that Carlisle will be part of the HS2 network and that the railway station will be redeveloped as part of the £20 million Carlisle Station Gateway project.

Mr Stevenson added: “The board just needs to be a little careful that it doesn’t enter the political area in too strong a way. I think the TfN would be better occupied in supporting the Government investment rather than railing against it.”



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