Truss pledges to revive Northern Powerhouse Rail plans

The frontrunner in the Conservative leadership election has pledged to revive the scaled-back Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) scheme.

Liz Truss declared she was “completely committed” to building the project in full and that she wanted “really fantastic rail services” for the north of England. 

On the same day that her rival for the prime minister post, former chancellor Rishi Sunak, vowed to prevent housing being built on the greenbelt, Truss backed the NPR despite the government stripping back the scheme only last autumn.

The Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), published in November 2021, ditched previous plans to build a full rail line from Liverpool to Leeds via Manchester, with links to Sheffield, York, Hull, and elsewhere in the North and Midlands. The eastern leg of HS2 was scrapped at the same time.

Bradford, whose council was planning a new £500m rail station to link up with the route, was removed from the plans altogether, and a connection between Leeds and Manchester is no longer planned to run at high speed. 

But, in a speech in Leeds yesterday, foreign secretary Truss said: “I know how poor the transport is and, frankly, it’s not got much better since I was a teenager getting the bus into Leeds city centre.

“What I want to see is really fantastic rail services [and] better roads so people are able to get into work.” 

Truss also said she would look at altering a funding formula used by the Treasury for projects in areas such as the West Yorkshire city to ensure they were able to compete fairly for government money.

She did not commit to reversing the decision to scrap HS2’s eastern leg if she won the contest to lead the Conservatives, and did not elaborate on her pledge to back the NPR, including whether her commitment meant new rail lines or simply upgrades to existing infrastructure. 

In December 2021, the Transport for the North group branded the IRP as inadequate, citing its disappointment and dismay over the long-awaited plan, and called on the government to publish its internal assessments of the proposal.

Meanwhile, Sunak told The Daily Telegraph that his planning policy would be run according to the motto of “brownfield, brownfield, brownfield.

He said he wanted to see more houses built in the North and the Midlands, rather than in the south of England, and accused Truss of wanting to construct a million homes in the countryside.

Truss is the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Boris Johnson. The outcome of the leadership race is expected on 5 September.

Labour shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said people living in the north “are sick and tired of empty words from this discredited government”.

From Brexit to Build Back Better: what is Johnson’s construction legacy?

Boris Johnson’s time in office was a tumultuous and historic period unlike any other. Throughout much of it, the prime minister rarely missed an opportunity to don a hard hat and get out on a construction site, as the industry he declared would Build Back Better was rarely far from his plans. Ian Weinfass examines the legacy of his interactions with the sector.

Read the full article here.

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