Government does not know how well integrated rail plan “will work on the ground”, Transport Minister admits

Halifax Train Station

Baroness Vere, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said during a debate in the House of Lords that she was unable to answer questions from peers from all parties on “what capacity will be provided for who and when ”because“ we don’t know that now ”.

“This is a plan, and there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to move from the plan to the next level – right down to the details of how it will actually work on the ground,” she said. declared.

“While in some places we can be very clear on what capacity upgrades will be available, in others there will be a tremendous amount of design to do and engineering options to consider, particularly where it is about modernizing the lines.

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“So the frequency of service, capacity and length of trips can be subject to change, but of course we always want to maximize capacity, increase service levels and reduce travel times. “

It follows the ongoing controversy over the IRP’s impact on Yorkshire, which will only have two miles of new high-speed track and has seen the HS2 route to Leeds removed as well as plans easing of a new high-speed line between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford.

Instead, a new line will run between Warrington and Marsden on the outskirts of Yorkshire before joining the existing track.

Baroness Vere defended the IRP’s comprehensive approach but also admitted the plan lacked information on cargo capacity.

“While a lot of work has been done on this, I think all of us in government admit that we haven’t put enough into the integrated rail plan. I know we will work very hard to provide more information on this in due course.

His contribution followed multi-party condemnation of the IRP’s proposals.

Baroness Blake, union counterpart and former Leeds Council leader, said: “The IRP should have been a role model for the North to realize its transformational economic vision. The disappointment and the sense of betrayal felt throughout the region is immense. “

She said HS2 and the complete delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail to Leeds would have helped support 150,000 jobs and added £ 200 billion to the economy.

Tory Baroness McIntosh said the ‘decommissioned’ plans for Yorkshire should be rethought as soon as possible. “This simple step will open up and unlock the entire economy of Northern Powerhouse, and I think it is very much in line with the government’s agenda to do so.”

Liberal Democrat Lord Wallace questioned whether the plans had been fully thought out.

Northern Powerhouse Rail has now boiled down to a new line between Warrington and Marsden – a village west of Huddersfield – with no specifics as to whether this will involve doubling the Standedge tunnel to remove the bottleneck in the middle . Is the Government convinced that it can reopen the two very old single-line tunnels on either side of the current Standedge double tunnel for high-speed and electrified trains?

“If they can’t, a new tunnel will be needed somewhere, which justifies it being different, rather than just doubling the Standedge tunnel. This is the case for a second fast trans-Pennine link, what the government has just denied. “

He added, “We need to connect Bradford, Halifax and the cities of the North Pennines to this metropolitan network. Bradford as a city, and Halifax and the towns of the Pennines, in long term decline.

“It takes a very long time to travel from Leeds to Liverpool, and it is very complicated to travel from Bradford to Sheffield. Bradford to Manchester is a long, slow trip on a crowded two or three car diesel train.

“However, the costs of an additional three kilometers of tunnels in South London to connect the expensive new real estate developments around the Battersea power station are justified, apparently because the foreign owners of these new properties have contributed to the Conservative Party. hope that’s not correct, but that’s what Private Eye suggests to me.

“It sounds like ‘If it’s in the north, it costs too much.’ The potential impact of economic transformation is not being taken into account.”

Leeds to Liverpool journeys “slower than Manchester to London”

The government’s rail plans will mean it will be faster to get from Manchester to London than from Leeds to Liverpool, warned Lord Birt, an interbank counterpart.

The former BBC chief executive said: ‘Economically it is best to think of the heart of the north, from Liverpool to Manchester to Leeds, as one single metropolitan area with a huge population.

“The North has long had a totally inadequate road and rail system to connect its major centers.

“Remarkably, according to the government’s proposals going forward, it will be faster to reach London from Manchester than to reach Leeds from Liverpool. It is really shocking. The North will not prosper until the government also focuses on its three major metropolitan areas. “

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Maria D. Ervin