Northern chiefs ‘united’ in fight for more rail investment

Posted on 24 January 2022

Northern chiefs ‘united’ in fight for more rail investment

Northern leaders have not given up on construction of major rail projects in the region despite the way plans were scaled back by ministers in the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), a key figure has insisted.

Henri Murison said he had been speaking to key political and business figures and believed they could keep pressure on the government to back further infrastructure investment in due course. He pointed to the approach taken across London boroughs to add pressure on the need for Crossrail in the 2000s and suggest the North could do the same.

The IRP last year scrapped plans to extend High Speed 2 (HS2) infrastructure to Leeds and instead promised a series of upgrades, electrifications and other new lines to boost connectivity in the North.

But Murison said at a Westminster Forum event late last week: “The North of England is still united and working together. Whatever the disappointments of the IRP, the North of England is not going to stop working collectively [just] because the government of the day doesn’t agree with us straight away.”

He implied that big schemes that had been axed in the region – potentially including the full HS2 Eastern Leg and the entire HS3 line from Manchester to Leeds – could take the same path as Crossrail, a project first drawn up in 1974 and turned down by Parliament 20 years later before resurfacing this century.

“It takes years to get approval from Whitehall for big projects,” said Murison. “In London it took a huge collective endeavour among councils and the mayoral team to deliver Crossrail.

“Crossrail was not given on a plate by the Treasury, it took years of argument, persuasion and detailed case-making to win that argument.”

South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis this week escalated a war of words with Grant Shapps after the transport secretary branded him “irrational” over his criticism of the controversial IRP.

Jarviscompared Shapps to a toddler having a tantrumfollowing the minister’s column in the Yorkshire Post on Wednesday, which castigated northern leaders for “irrational” and “spectacularly wrong” opinions.

Jarvis said on social media in reaction to Shapps’ column: “Throwing your toys out of the pram because it’s been pointed out you’ve over promised and under delivered isn’t a great look for ministers.

“The North wants what was pledged – a rail network fit for the 21st Century. No more. No less.”

Leeds City Council leader James Lewis added: “Grant Shapps’ comments in the Yorkshire Post will be upsetting to rail passengers in Leeds who have faced years of delays and underinvestment from his government, and much of the new spending he trumpets will mainly benefit passengers in other parts of the country, not passengers in Yorkshire.

“The IRP just created more uncertainty at a time when businesses and residents in our city are crying out for clarity from the government and the delivery of the rail improvements Leeds needs and deserves.”

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