Outrage as minister says ‘not much point’ in Northern Powerhouse Rail
Local leaders have reacted angrily after a government minister said there ‘wasn’t much point’ in building Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) in full. The plans for a new high-speed line through from to Manchester Leeds, and eventually spanning from Liverpool to Hull, were last year scaled back by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to an upgrade of the existing line. Mr Johnson’s successor, Liz Truss, vowed to reverse this and at this year’s Tory Party conference pledged to build the project, estimated to cost around GBP40 billion, as originally envisaged, including a planned brand new stop in Bradford and a link with HS2.
READ MORE: This is Awaab – the little boy who died after being exposed to damp and mould in his home However, it has been widely reported this week that soon after replacing her in Number 10, Rishi Sunak is to reverse that commitment And speaking to the BBC, the new Business Secretary Grant Shapps gave the clearest indication yet that recent commitments by Ms Truss, including NPR, were likely to be scaled back.
“The line itself can deliver a 33-minute journey from Manchester to Leeds, quadruple nearly the capacity of that line, and do so without having to wait an extra 20 years beyond the delivery of what the upgrade can do,” Mr Shapps said.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said he believed improvements could be made with a more limited upgrade (Image: Getty Images)
“There wasn’t really much point in going and blasting new tunnels through the Pennines.” “It’s not true to say we’re not delivering on what we said we would do on levelling up the north,” he added. However, the leader of Manchester City Council, Bev Craig, said on Twitter: “‘Not much point?’ in investing in infrastructure to improve connections, increase capacity and help unlock the economic potential of the North?
As for there being no point in digging tunnels, best not tell him about London….” The manifesto the Conservatives won the 2019 election on promised Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester and Mr Johnson referenced the project in his farewell speech.
City Council leader Bev Craig said a new line would ‘increase capacity and help unlock the economic potential of the North’ (Image: Manchester Evening News)
Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, has said scaling back the rail line would be a “serious setback to levelling up.” He said reverting to Mr Johnson’s plans would mean the Tories were “still falling short of the ambition in the 2019 manifesto on which they were elected.” “The North’s woeful transport infrastructure continues to weigh down our economy and hold back private investment,” he also told the BBC.
What do you think? Have your say in our comments below. “This option saves little to nothing to Treasury coffers now. Northern Powerhouse Rail is still in early development stage meaning that the vast majority of the investment needed is well beyond the current spending review period.”
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and the Prime Minister are looking for sweeping cuts ahead of the November 17 budget, as the Bank of England warns of the longest recession on record.
All infrastructure projects are said to be under review as new PM Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt prepare their November 17 budget (Image: PA)
And earlier this week the new Transport Secretay Mark Harper distanced himself from Ms Truss’ commitment. Pressed specifically on NPR and a new stop in Bradford on Wednesday, Mr Harper told Sky News said: “I think it’s fair to say things that the former prime minister (said), as Rishi Sunak made clear when he became prime minister, that for all the best motives, a number of mistakes were made. And he was elected as prime minister in part to fix them.”
Whilst a Downing Street spokesman indicated they were now focussing on building HS2 on budget rather than “additional pledges made by the previous government.” There was also confusion over a commitment to a new nuclear plant, called Sizewell C, in Suffolk. A senior Treasury source told the BBC they were rethinking “all capital spending” but others, along with sources in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, insisted Sizewell C was not being scrapped or delayed.