A controversial government plan for rail schemes in the North and Midlands must be “reconsidered” to avoid a “missed opportunity”, lawmakers warned.
The Transport Select Committee called for a full analysis of the broader economic impacts of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), which the Department for Transport (DfT) said contained £96bn of investment.
The government provoked anger in November 2021 when it published the plan, which includes demolishing the eastern leg of HS2 between East Midlands and Leeds and reducing the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).
Transport for the North, which advises the DfT on the region’s transport needs, had recommended that NPR involve the construction of new lines between Liverpool and Leeds.
The Government must demonstrate the justification for its decisions
Huw Merriman, Transport Select Committee
But the IRP revealed that the Government only intends to fund a new line between Warrington in Cheshire and Marsden in West Yorkshire, with the rest of the route only receiving upgrades on existing lines.
In a report, the Transport Select Committee stated that these decisions “will reduce the prospects of meeting the North’s ambitions by limiting the vital capacity needed for growth.”
NPR’s “original purpose” was to connect cities like Bradford, Hull, Leeds and Sheffield and “allow them to grow”, the committee found.
“The evidence base for the IRP must be reconsidered in light of these objectives, so that this one-time investment in a generation in rail is not a missed opportunity.”
Conservative MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the committee, said the scale of promised spending on rail transport was “welcome” and “has the potential to transform rail travel for future generations”.
But he stressed that “many towns and cities are already disappointed with the proposals presented”.
He continued: “The Prime Minister promised that with Northern Powerhouse Rail he would do for the North what he did for Londoners with Crossrail.
“Instead, much of the track will be an upgrade to the existing lineup.
“HS2’s business case was based on going east of Leeds. Now he stops in the East Midlands with no understanding of how much money is saved.
“Those we speak to from the cities of Leeds and Bradford in particular do not recognize that the finalized plans meet the promises they believe have been made or the prime minister’s stated goals.
“For these cities, and for the taxpayer as a whole, the government must demonstrate the logic of its decisions.”
He added: “We ask the government to review the evidence base for the decisions they made.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The government’s £96bn Integrated Rail Plan is the largest rail investment ever made by a UK government, and this report significantly underestimates the benefits it will bring to millions of passengers in the next few years. generations.
“The plan, which is supported by detailed economic analysis, is already benefiting our regions with 26,000 jobs created for the HS2 project alone, and will deliver transformational benefits to communities in the North and Midlands much sooner than in previous plans.”