Thursday, December 2, 2021

Downgrading Northern Powerhouse Rail could add 12,000 additional car journeys per day in North

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Documents I’ve seen suggest there could be 12,000 additional car trips per day on an upgrade-heavy Leeds-Manchester line instead of a new route via Bradford.

In the north of England, Boris Johnson’s decision to downgrade Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) could lead to around 12,000 additional car journeys per day, according to an analysis carried out in Whitehall.

Documents seen from I, that were part of the internal government discussion on rail upgrading suggest that the decision to focus on upgrading an important section of the project rather than building a new high-speed line will result in many more people using the roads.

The papers are not official projections or impact assessments but were fed into the officials’ review of NPR proposals.

It comes after that I announced that Boris Johnson will cancel his promise to fund a new high-speed rail link in the north.

NPR’s key Leeds-Manchester section will be delivered primarily through upgrades along the existing Transpennine route rather than a new line via Bradford, as the Integrated Rail Plan will reveal this week.

The documents shared with I suggest that a new line via Bradford in the north could take up to 58,000 daily car journeys from the road by 2060.

In comparison, the modeling of a less ambitious proposal, based mainly on upgrades and sections of a new route along the existing Leeds-Manchester route, suggests that it will only require up to 46,000 off-road car journeys, which is 12,000 more journeys per day means.

The documents also suggested that a state-of-the-art plan would create 71,500 new jobs by 2060, 2,500 fewer than a new line which would create 74,000.

The North would miss out on £ 800 million of gross value added, with upgrades adding £ 13.7 billion, compared to £ 14.4 billion with a new line, the documents say.

There would also be half (530,000) as many people within 90 minutes from Manchester Airport using an upgrade-based plan, compared to 1.1 million people who would be on a new line within that travel time.

A senior official said: “Everyone knows the Chancellor is cutting corners by forcing high-speed rail to travel the cheapest route so that it can fulfill the fiscal mandate and save money on tax cuts in the next election.

“But it just means that the north is adding an environmental and economic cost, and it will continue to bother passengers as it gets the can on its way by not properly modernizing the north’s rail network for the 21st century.”

Labor said the government must do more to decarbonise transport if it is to meet net-zero ambitions.

Former Tory Transportation Secretary Robert Goodwill urged the government to maintain “safety precautions” that would allow a new NPR line to be built in the future.

He admitted that it was necessary to see whether passenger numbers recover after the Covid pandemic or whether significant numbers continue to work at home.

However, he stressed the need for a “comprehensive high-speed rail network” in the UK.

“My main concern is when we upgrade existing lines, what disruptions will travelers cause in terms of replacement buses and delays?

“We saw that the electrification of the West Coast Mainline was appalling.

Commenting on the decision to focus on upgrades, he said, “It’s a little disappointing to say the least.

“It is disappointing that we will not be performing at full capacity with regard to HS2 and East-West, Northern Powerhouse Rail.

“As part of the overall decarbonization of our economy, I believe that people who ride electric trains and don’t use their car for long distances must be part of the solution.

Shadow Transportation Secretary Jim McMahon said, “If we have any hope of achieving our goals, the government needs to do a lot more to decarbonize transport and invest in our public transportation networks to make this a viable option.

“All we see instead are empty words, broken promises and total failure for the regions and municipalities that trust this prime minister only to see him withhold his word.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport said: “Work on the Integrated Railway Plan will continue.

“We will publish it shortly and will not comment on speculation.”

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