Leader’s fears over ‘once in a generation’ rail investment

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THE leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council says the Government will be ‘shirking one of the biggest decisions in a generation’ if it scales back plans to invest in the North’s railways.

Cllr Louise Gittins, speaking in her role as interim chair of Transport for the North (TfN), was responding to reports that the government’s soon to be published integrated rail plan would be ‘bad news’ for the North of England.

The Department for Transport has been drawing up proposals for new routes outside London in consultation with local leaders, but reports have circulated in the national press that these plans are now to be scaled back, including cut backs to the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project.

Cllr Gittins said: “These reports are disappointing.

“I hope that this is not the case, as the Prime Minister said only last week in Manchester that transport is ‘one of the supreme leveller-uppers’ and he was very clear in saying he ‘will do Northern Powerhouse Rail’.

Dubbed Crossrail for the North, NPR would create high speed rail links between the North’s major cities and would inject an estimated £14 billion a year into the economy by 2060.

Cllr Gittins said that the work undertaken by TfN showed the value of investment and the importance of it for ‘levelling up’.

She added: “It was very encouraging to see that the Prime Minister believes he has a mandate for transformational change, and he wants transport to be the cornerstone of his levelling up agenda, and therefore the Comprehensive Spending Review this month gives the prime opportunity for his Government to set this out in full.

“Anything less will not only be ‘bad news’ for people living in the North, but it will be shirking one of the biggest decisions for our country in a generation.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b and other transformational projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the north and Midlands need and deserve.”