Political leaders in the North have warned that the government will not use the huge financial benefits and fail to deliver on its promises to voters if it cancels major railway projects as expected, including the east section of HS2 and the new Manchester-Leeds line.
Boris Johnson today unveiled a long-delayed integrated rail plan for the Midlands and the North of England, the largest-ever investment in rail infrastructure, with £ 96 billion promised to upgrade existing routes.
The plan is expected to confirm that HS2 limited – its eastern section to Leeds was canceled – and the route between the Northern Powerhouse’s Pennines was scrapped, despite the Prime Minister’s public promise to deliver both over the past two years.
In a press release that did not include details of the plan, the Department of Transportation said the new plan had been drawn up “after it became clear that the full HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail systems originally proposed would not be operational until the early or mid-2040s”.
It said the new plans would deliver travel times “similar to or faster” than the original HS2 and Manchester-Leeds systems.
The Northern Powerhouse Partnership said the cuts, which bring upgrades to the existing line between the Pennines, will save just £ 4bn and cut down commuters and businesses.
“Watering down Northern Powerhouse Rail for just 10 per cent of the original £ 39 billion budget is unforgivably short-sighted by the Treasury,” said director Henri Murison.
“We were promised a new line between Manchester and Leeds that could have included a stop in Bradford, one of the most dynamic cities in the UK, where productivity is being slowed by unfortunate poor transport links.
“Now it looks like we’re just getting an upgrade that won’t solve the capacity problem on this key leg of the route.
“We are not being fooled into believing that we will get £ 96 billion from the transport revolution in the north.”
Bradford City Council chief Susan Hinchcliffe told Sky News she feared the city would be left without a new line and a new station that would better connect its 500,000 residents to the area.
“I can’t believe they’re making a decision to shut down Bradford’s Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“There is such an opportunity here, we are the largest city in the UK that is not on the main line, and we are also the youngest city in the UK with 25 per cent of the population under the age of 16.
“It takes 20 minutes from London to Reading, the same distance as between Manchester and Bradford, which takes about an hour.
“We need this level of connectivity in the north, but it is also about the impact of change in the integration of the big cities in the north, including each other, and the impact on the city center and the cities where they are located.
“New businesses are coming, better employment, people can work in one part of the north and live in another – all of which will create a much more dynamic and prosperous economy.
“The people of the North have accepted a bad deal for many, many years.
“I think we can be better, we should be better in the north, we shouldn’t be happy with second class service in the north of England.”
The cuts raise questions about the prime minister’s often-quoted “leveling program” aimed at spreading wealth outside the south-east of England, allowing him to be accused of breaking a promise he made to new Conservative voters in the north.
In his statement, he said: “If we want to see levels rise now, we need to quickly change the services that are most important to people.
“Therefore, the integrated rail plan will be the largest transport investment program of the century, providing meaningful transport connections to more passengers across the country, faster – both with fast journeys and better local services. It will ensure that no city or town is left behind.”