Transport for the North (TfN) has reluctantly agreed to postpone the submission of its Outline Business Case for Northern Powerhouse Rail, following a request from the Secretary of State for Transport. The Department for Transport has stated that the submission of the OBC should come after the release of the Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and northern England. The plan will assess the most effective way to implement HS2 north of Birmingham, Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Midlands Rail Hub, as well as various major Network Rail initiatives.
The Integrated Rail Plan was scheduled for publication at the end of 2020, but has been postponed. TfN expects that the OBC may be deferred for between three and six months, depending on the impact of the IRP's recommendations on project scope, funding, and resulting train service specifications.
Transport for the North operates within a national policy framework managed by the Department for Transport, with the Secretary of State for Transport being accountable to parliament for the development, adoption, and amendment of policies affecting Northern Powerhouse Rail. Given this accountability, Transport for the North has reluctantly agreed to delay the submission of its Outline Business Case for Northern Powerhouse Rail at the request of the Secretary of State for Transport to ensure it aligns with the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and northern England.
The Strategic Outline Case, which aims to agree on a single preferred network for Northern Powerhouse Rail, is on track for submission to the government in March. Transport for the North notes that it "updates and further strengthens the case for Northern Powerhouse Rail while significantly narrowing down the options to be taken forward."
Following the National Infrastructure Commission's Rail Needs Assessment publication, Transport for the North wrote to the Secretary of State, outlining its initial views on the preferred way forward for the scheme. The board strongly advocated for the government to fully recommit to Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2, and other major northern schemes, placing rail investment at the heart of an ambitious vision to level up the opportunity, decarbonise transport, and act as a catalyst for growth. Transport for the North emphasised the need to consider Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 as a single integrated network, which is the cornerstone of a 25-year program to transform the north of England's rail network to deliver economic and environmental objectives. A map of proposed junctions between High Speed 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail routes has been provided.