The integrated rail plan has mothballed the construction of the eastern leg of HS2 between Birmingham and Leeds and downgraded plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, a new east-west line across the Pennines between Manchester and Leeds.
Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell said:
On the local reaction
“People will struggle to understand why this Government expects Northerners to be grateful for piecemeal improvements to our creaking, 20th Century rail system, when we can see state-of-the-art HS2 links that benefit the South, and a new tube line and Crossrail in London, but mend and make do for the North.
“Many people voted Conservative at the last election based on the Prime Minister’s grand promises about levelling-up and investment in the North. How can anyone now believe a word this Government says on levelling up when they have let the north down in this way?”
On the Government’s Plans
“This is a major strategic blunder. We have waited so long for this Integrated Rail Plan, but rather than the blueprint for integrating Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 that was promised, all we seem left with is a collection of smaller-scale projects that amount to a continuation of disintegrated rail.
“This was an opportunity to transform the North by connecting the North East, Yorkshire and the East Midlands to HS2, forging stronger transport links between the great city regions of the North. It would have brought regeneration, jobs, and the economic rebalancing we’ve been promised for so long.
“Instead, the Government has broken their promises to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail, and HS2 in full, and it will now benefit the South and not the North, leaving us with the worst of all worlds.
“The Government want us to think this is all about journey times, but the reality is that these transformational projects were never about journey times. They were about freeing up capacity on existing lines that are under very significant pressure, so we can run more and better services and allow more people and freight to travel by rail. You just can’t do that by patching up current routes.
“Labour have been clear that we would deliver HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full. We see the North as an opportunity, not a problem. I will continue to fight for better rail links for the North East, to improve our connections to the rest of the country and to help our economy to grow.”
Responding to the statement by the Secretary of State in the House of Commons, Catherine added
“The Secretary of State knows fine well that the promised integrated infrastructure investment is about capacity as much as about travel times.
“They are just not being straight, and they are asking northerners to put up with ‘make do and mend’ rather than giving us the infrastructure we were promised.
“Is it because they see the North as a problem to solve rather than an opportunity to invest in?
“Isn’t this just another broken promise from the Prime Minister and Chancellor who have seemingly cancelled levelling up because there are Tories on the line. It appears that the Prime Minister is once again driving a train into a ditch off the track on his way to the North”