Following the delayed announcement of the Integrated Rail Plan, City of York Council Leader Keith Aspden has hit out at the Government going back on its promises to ‘level up’ the North.
The IRP proposes to scrap the Eastern leg of HS2, the route, which would see Birmingham connected with Leeds and York via Sheffield, improve the reliability and speed of services to and from York station and across the North.
The new proposals also water down a promise to fund the Norther Powerhouse Rail, a new high-speed rail link in the North of England, by instead focusing on upgrades to existing lines.
HS2 Eastern leg would have integrated with Northern Powerhouse Rail and local transport to relieve congestion, improve reliability and speed up journey times.
This amounts to a double blow for the North, despite the Prime Minister, days after taking office in July 2019, committing “to be the Prime Minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did for Crossrail in London”.
Whilst the proposals include welcome investment in the East Coast Main Line, Cllr Aspden notes that this is no substitute for the comprehensive plan that Government has promised for years.
Councillor Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat Leader of the City of York Council, commented:
“The Government has once again failed to listen to the voices of Yorkshire and the North, who will be most impacted by the consequences of this decision.
“Failure to deliver on HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail is a betrayal of the North and the levelling up agenda, which continues to be a vapid political slogan.
“We cannot talk about levelling up and a commitment to the North without addressing the decades of underinvestment across our transport networks. We haven’t had a major new rail line in the north since the Victorians and it means our infrastructure is simply not fit for a 21st century economy.
“Instead of committing to provide the rail services that work for our communities, as part of a joined-up transport system that connects people to better jobs, better education, and more opportunities, this Government is proposing to tinker around the edges.
Whilst any investment in existing lines, such as the East Coast Main Line, is of course welcome and important, this patchwork policy is no substitute for the long promised comprehensive investment in joined up Northern Powerhouse Rail project.
“York is one of the best connected cities in the country and will remain at the heart of the rail industry in the North. Government must deliver comprehensive investment and an integrated rail service in the North, which would see the full potential of the region unleashed. Whilst today’s announcements are disappointing, we will continue to work to make the case for York, bringing more investment and rail industry jobs to the city, including by bidding to become the new home of Great British Rail.”