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Political and business leaders across the North of England have called for a phased 20-year pipeline of rail investment that would support the region’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and unlock future potential, emphasising that a clear and coordinated investment plan is needed, one that is committed funding and a role in deciding and delivering the schemes.
Transport for the North (TfN) is making the case that the region not only needs major rail projects – such as Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and HS2 – to be completed in full, but also local and regional improvements to the existing congested rail network in order to unlock freight and passenger capacity in the shorter term.
The case is part of TfN’s first submission to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) – the body tasked with providing evidence to support the UK government in developing an Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands, announced by the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, earlier in 2020.
TfN has said that only by having a clear infrastructure pipeline of both road and rail schemes spanning the coming decades can the region’s infrastructure truly be ‘levelled-up’. It says that such a plan would create job opportunities, reduce the reliance on cars, help slash carbon emissions and tackle a predicted post-COVID-19 economic shock.
This forms part of the ‘Northern Budget’ ask set out by TfN in summer 2019, which calls for commitment to £39 billion for the full Northern Powerhouse Rail route, a £7 billion northern infrastructure pipeline of road and rail projects, and £3 billion to support the development and delivery of this work.
Transport for the North’s Chief Executive, Barry White, said: “We’ve strongly welcomed the government’s passion for infrastructure investment in the North, and commitment to projects like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. Now, more than ever, the North needs certainty on what rail schemes will happen and when, so that passengers and businesses can benefit as soon as possible. We need an integrated and sustained 20-year pipeline of investment in our rail network. It’ll be a vital weapon to combat the COVID-19 economic shock and to secure a greener future. Better rail infrastructure could get people and the economy moving and, in the long-term, support a period of growth that creates more opportunities.”
He continued: “We’ve been clear that tackling rail problems in the here and now – by committing to projects around some of the congested parts of the North’s network – need to be considered by the government and then progressed at pace. But we also need to explore how to speed up the delivery of key parts of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in the North to ensure that people aren’t waiting decades for change. We must deliver on the well-worn promise that change is coming down the track.”
The full submission makes the case for the direct involvement of the North’s leaders in creating and delivering an agreed pipeline of rail investments. It says that cutting carbon emissions from transport and the needs of passengers should be the centre of plan development.
It is understood that the UK government intended to finalise the Integrated Rail Plan by the end of 2020, with recommendations on the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 and other planned schemes, such as the TransPennine Route Upgrade.
This article first appeared on www.globalrailwayreview.com
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