Train services in the north of England are to be given triple the intended investment after the government announced the first part of its £96bn integrated rail plan.
The multibillion pound plan – announced last November – pledged to deliver faster train journeys more quickly than the original plans for the HS2 eastern leg and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
On Tuesday, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, will unveil an investment worth up to £11.5bn for the Transpennine Route Upgrades, which had been a £2.9bn project on services between Manchester and York, via Leeds.
From 2025, commuters can expect two extra passenger trains every hour and journey times up to 40% shorter.
Shapps claims that a trip between Manchester and Leeds will drop from up to an hour to just over 30 minutes, an improvement that will “revolutionise that journey across the Pennines”.
“This is the single biggest investment any government has ever made in Britain’s railways. It’s right up there and probably beyond what the Victorians were doing,” he said.
However, the plans have been dismissed as “yet another re-announcement of existing funding by a headline-seeking transport secretary”.
Referencing the fact that this triple investment is not an addition to the overall funding package already announced, the general secretary of transport union TSSA, Manuel Cortes, said: “If this government was serious about backing our railways, then it needs to do much more to tackle rip-off ticket prices and improve reliability and end-to-end journeys.”
The integrated rail plan was greeted by disquiet in some quarters, with detractors frustrated at what they deemed a watered down revamp.
Though a £96bn investment, promises to improve the TransPennine route arrived alongside the confirmation that major components of previously sanctioned improvements would not go ahead.
Among these was the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds and a full high-speed east-west line linking Manchester to Leeds.
The shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, said Tuesday’s announcement changed little for people in the north, who remain “sick and tired of the empty words of this discredited government”.
Haigh said the northern economy had been held back by a “decade of broken promises” by the Conservatives on proposed improvements to the line between Manchester and Leeds.
Shapps maintains this investment is a demonstration of his commitment to addressing the “historic lack of balance” between spending in the north and south.
Part of this involves the north now receiving “about 14% more spent per head of population than nationally”, he said.
“So for the first time ever, we’re seeing greater expenditure in the north. That’s a real reverse of the previous situation and it’s all part of our plan to level up the whole country.”
Almost £1bn of the investment will be released to progress the next phase on electrification of the railway line between Stalybridge and Manchester.
The route will also be fitted with complete electrification, full digital signalling and extra tracks.
July 19, 2022 at 04:42AM Cash Boyle