Northern political leaders have warned that the government will miss out on huge economic benefits and betray promises to voters if, as expected, it cancels major railway projects, including the eastern part of HS2 and a new Manchester-Leeds line.
Boris Johnson will unveil a long-delayed integrated rail plan for the Midlands and the north of England today, considered the largest ever investment in rail infrastructure with £ 96bn. promised to improve existing routes.
The plan is expected to confirm that HS2 will be curtailed – with its eastern legs extending to Leeds canceled – and the Northern Powerhouse route across the Pennine scrapped despite the Prime Minister’s public promise to deliver both for the past two years.
In a press release that did not contain any details about the plan, the Department of Transportation said the new plan had been prepared “after it became clear that the full HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail schemes as originally proposed would not come into operation until early to the mid-2040s “.
It said the new plans would provide travel times “similar or faster” than the original HS2 and Manchester-Leeds schemes.
The Northern Powerhouse Partnership said the cuts, which will see upgrades to the existing trans-Pennine line, will save just £ 4bn. and short commuters and businesses.
“Diluting the Northern Powerhouse Rail for just 10% of the total initial budget of £ 39 billion is unforgivably short-sighted from the Treasury,” said director Henri Murison.
“We were promised a new line between Manchester and Leeds, which could have included a stop in Bradford, one of the UK’s most dynamic cities, where productivity is being held back by sadly poor transport links.
“Now it seems that we are only getting an upgrade that will do nothing to solve the capacity problem on this important stretch of route.
“We will not be lured into believing that we will get £ 96 billion for a transport revolution in the north.”
Susan Hinchcliffe, head of Bradford City Council, told Sky News she fears the city will be left without a new line and a new station to better connect its 500,000 inhabitants to the region.
“I do not think they will make a decision that excludes Bradford from the Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“There is such an opportunity here, we are the largest city in the UK, not on a main line, and we are also the youngest city in the UK with 25% of the population under 16 years of age.
“London to Reading takes 20 minutes, it’s the same distance as between Manchester and Bradford, which takes about an hour.
“We need that level of connectivity in the north, but it’s also about the transforming effect of connecting the big cities in the north, including to each other, and the impact that has on the city center and the cities where they are located.
“New companies on the way, better employment, people able to work in one part of the Nordic region and live in another, all this creates a much more dynamic and successful economy.
“People in the north are resigned to having a bad deal for many, many years.
“I believe we can get better, we should be better off in the north, we should not be content with a second-class service in the north of England.”
The cuts will raise questions about the prime minister’s often-quoted “leveling up” agenda, designed to spread wealth across south-east England, leaving him vulnerable to accusations of breaking a promise to new conservative voters in the Nordic region.
In a statement, he said: “If we are to see a level up in action now, we need to quickly transform the services that matter most to people.
“That’s why the integrated rail plan will be the largest transport investment program in a century, providing faster meaningful transport links to more passengers across the country – with both high-speed travel and better local services, it will ensure no city or town is left behind.”