A 20-YEAR plan for railways in the north of England has been submitted to a Government review of infrastructure in the region.

The plan, which formed part of the “Northern Budget” set out by Transport for the North in summer 2019, includes a possible Northern Powerhouse Rail station in central Bradford.

In their joint submission to the Integrated Rail Plan, Transport for the North’s members called for a sustained investment in the North’s rail network through a commitment to “quick win” projects and high-speed links.

Other local project in their sights are the Transpennine Route Upgrade and the Central Pennines corridor between Preston and Leeds which would include the reinstatement of the line linking Colne and Skipton, a scheme that was mentioned in the Conservatives' election manifesto.

One example given of the benefits to travellers is an cut from 167 minutes to 70 minutes for a journey from Bradford to Birmingham.

By 2050, the group says, total annual demand for rail travel is expected to be up to four times higher than today. This would mean an increase in trips in the North from 180 million to 760 million trips by 2050.

The region’s political and business leaders say a phased 20-year pipeline of rail investment would support the North’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and unlock future potential. They want a clear and coordinated investment plan, committed funding and a role in deciding and delivering the schemes.

Transport for the North is making the case that the North not only needs major projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 to be completed in full, but also local and regional improvements to the existing congested rail network to unlock freight and passenger capacity in the shorter term.

It is part of Transport for the North’s first submission to the National Infrastructure Commission – the body tasked with providing evidence to support the Government in developing an Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this year.

Transport for the North said that only by having a clear Northern infrastructure pipeline of both road and rail schemes spanning the coming decades can the North’s infrastructure truly be ‘levelled-up’.

It says such a plan would create job opportunities, reduce the reliance on cars, help slash carbon emissions and tackle a predicted post-Covid-19 economic shock. This forms part of the “Northern Budget” ask set out by Transport for the North in summer 2019, which calls for commitment to £39 billion for the full Northern Powerhouse Rail route, a £7bn northern infrastructure pipeline of road and rail projects, and £3bn to support the development and delivery of this work.

Speaking on release of the submission, Barry White, Transport for the North’s Chief Executive, said: “We’ve strongly welcomed the Government’s passion for infrastructure investment in the North, and commitment to projects like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. It’s an agenda the North set.

"But there’s no point in doing it piecemeal. Now, more than ever, the North needs certainty on what rail schemes will happen and when, so that passengers and businesses can benefit as soon as possible.

“We need an integrated and sustained 20-year pipeline of investment in our rail network. It’ll be a vital weapon to combat the Covid-19 economic shock and to secure a greener future. Better rail infrastructure could get people and the economy moving and, in the long-term, support a period of growth that creates more opportunities.

“We’ve been clear that tackling rail problems in the here and now – by committing to projects around some of the congested parts of the North’s network – need to be considered by the Government and then progressed at pace. But we also need to explore how to speed up delivery of key parts of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in the North to ensure people aren’t waiting decades for change. We must deliver on the well-worn promise that change is coming down the track.

“Our members are clear on what interventions are needed, and that – as a formidable joint voice for the North – they should have a strong role in the decisions and the delivery of such rail schemes. The North is speaking with one voice through this evidence-based submission, and we stand ready to work together with Government through the next steps.”

The full submission makes the case for direct involvement of the North’s leaders in creating and delivering an agreed pipeline of rail investments. It says that cutting carbon emissions from transport and the needs of passengers should be front and centre of plan-making.

It is understood the Government intended to finalise the Integrated Rail Plan by the end of 2020, with recommendations on the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 and other planned schemes such as the TransPennine Route Upgrade.

Among Transport for the North’s initial evidence is the need for the Integrated Rail Plan to:

• Put passengers first in addressing short-term issues regarding reliability and resilience of train services, linked to congestion

• Be clear on what rail interventions will be delivered and when

• Align investments to plans for roads, local connectivity and active travel, to help support a sustainable multi-modal transport network

• Meet decarbonisation goals to ensure transport choices are sustainable

• Accelerate the business case development for Northern Powerhouse Rail

• Speed up delivery of shared infrastructure between HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail and consider the many opportunities to align both projects

• Explore alignment between major projects spanning east to west, not only through Northern Powerhouse Rail but also through the important Central Pennines corridor (Preston/Blackburn/Burnley/Leeds), including the reinstatement of the line linking Colne and Skipton

• Consider the optimisation as a single programme of major schemes currently in development but not yet formally approved – TransPennine Route Upgrade, HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail and the interfaces between them, such as Crewe North Connection and Garforth

• Support an effective freight network in the region and nationally, addressing capacity pinch-points

Cllr Judith Blake, of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “The Government’s Integrated Rail Plan must commit to delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail alongside the eastern leg of HS2 and the full TransPennine Route Upgrade, so the North can benefit from increased capacity and connectivity, and to support our economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At the same time it is also vitally important that investment in the strategic rail network is realised, so the North receives a truly integrated service from which our towns and cities can enjoy the benefits much earlier.”