Rail ‘betrayal’ for north and Midlands despite Boris Johnson levelling-up promises

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The government is to offer a “minimum” cut of railway upgrades to the North and Midlands this week despite Boris Johnson’s promise to “level up” the country outside London, Granthshala understands.

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Local transport chiefs are now expected to receive a seriously laid-back version of the northern powerhouse rail plan, and for ministers to effectively postpone plans for a high-speed cross-country link through the East Midlands. have hope.

The government is planning new connections outside London in consultation with local leaders – but insiders familiar with the discussions now expect almost every major city in the North and Midlands to be disappointed.

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“It will be bad news for Liverpool, Manchester and West Yorkshire. And not good for the Northeast either,” said a source.

Opposition parties said the government’s “inability to see through the projects” would make people feel “betrayed and left behind” and that Mr Johnson’s party convention promises were exposed for chanting “hollow” slogans.

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Supposedly to save money, Rishi Sunak’s coffers have blocked demands for an ambitious underground through station in Manchester – a lapse that would force northbound trains to reverse at Piccadilly station. , the capacity for the entire line will create a bottleneck and add to the travel times.

Despite being a city with a population of over half a million people and being located between Manchester and Leeds, the government is expected to refuse to include Bradford on the direct route of the Northern Powerhouse Rail on cost grounds.

Bradford, described by West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, as the “biggest opportunity” for the new route, is a clear candidate for the type level trumpeted by Boris Johnson – the city is the fifth most income-deprived district in England. Is.

And Liverpool, too, are expected to reduce their demands for a shorter 20-mile section of high-speed line connecting the city to HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail. Instead a far more limited upgrade to the existing line is expected to be proposed, resulting in less capacity and lower speed than the fully funded option.

The Treasury in the Northeast is believed to have resisted demands for improvements to the Lameside Line, an old freight route that planners want to use to run more passenger trains per hour on the mainline.

All the projects have been cited by local leaders as critical to increasing productivity and bringing infrastructure closer to the standard enjoyed in London and the South-East. Earlier this year the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham pledged to fight cuts to the plan, warning: “We are not going to accept second best, and we are not going to accept a situation where HS2 in the South But all the money is spent on the country, leaving us to cut the north.”

The government is also expected to effectively discontinue the eastern leg of High Speed ​​2, a cross-country route that runs between Birmingham and Leeds in the East Midlands and Sheffield.

While ministers are certainly expected to oppose the cancellation of the eastern phase, they are expected to kick it in the tall grass under the guise of “phasing out” with no concrete end date set. Electrification of the existing Midland mainline, originally promised in 2013 and then partially cancelled, is expected to be offered as a more immediate option.

As well as limiting links between the Midlands and Yorkshire, mothballing of the eastern leg would make it impossible to deliver the entire program of local railway upgrades to the Midlands drawn up by local leaders, many of whom relied on the line built.

The announcements are due in the government’s Integrated Rail Plan, which is expected to be out in the next two weeks ahead of Rishi Sunak’s autumn spending statement. Another source said: “Boris wants to build everything, but the Treasury is applying the brakes.”

The prime minister was widely expected to unveil the details of the transport upgrade in his speech at the Tory convention, but eyebrows were raised when the northern powerhouse railroad received only a passing mention. The project was first announced when George Osborne was chancellor but almost half a decade later no concrete plans have been published.

Rail industry insiders believe Downing Street skipped Mr Johnson’s policy-light speech announcement to avoid starting a row with Northern leaders and underestimated his leveled-up message , while he was still in Manchester.

“This would have been the right time for a positive announcement,” the source said. “No mention at all suggests that the answer is going to be sad.”

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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