Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Northern Powerhouse Rail backlash becomes a blame game as more scaled-down plans emerge

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The leg from Liverpool to Manchester is said to be delivered through upgrades, as Andy Burnham warns that the “patch and repair” approach would be a “major blow”

Rishi Sunak has been criticized for cutting costs on the high-speed rail scheme, with one official blaming the Chancellor’s “Thatcher ideology” and another saying he was “short-term” trying to save money on tax cuts in the next election.

Whitehall was embroiled in a blame game amid a backlash over the downgraded Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project on Tuesday when further details of scaled-down plans emerged.

Meanwhile, some officials felt that Boris Johnson had over-promised when he promised to build a new NPR route from “Leeds to Manchester” in 2019, which sources say against opposition from the Treasury and the Department of Transportation (DfT) was delivered.

There was also anger that portions of the Integrated Railroad Plan were being shared with the Sunday newspapers ahead of the official announcement expected on Thursday, with some officials saying it would have been better to make the proposals known as a whole.

It came after that I It was announced on Monday that the key Leeds-Manchester section of the NPR will be delivered mainly through upgrades along the existing TransPennine route to water down the Prime Minister’s pledge.

The eastern section of the HS2 high-speed line from Birmingham to Leeds was also put on hold with a double blow.

I has since learned that the Northern Leaders’ plan for a new NPR line from Liverpool to Manchester is instead being scaled back and implemented through upgrades, although electrification continues from Leeds to Hull.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham took the “patch and mend” approach because there was “a logic” to completely closing both sections of HS2 and NPR.

Failure to do so would be a “blow,” he said.

“We need the entire network instead of chopping bits here and downgrading bits there,” he told reporters.

“What seems to be done to save money is that only pieces are taken out.”

He added, “If it’s not a new line, it’s not Northern Powerhouse Rail.”

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “It is still not a new line over Bradford which is the only way to get enough trains to meet our capacity needs without turning down the rail freight we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce and improve the air quality. “

A senior official blamed Mr. Sunak for the cuts, saying, “You have the impression that he is thinking” [NPR in full] would risk the pot for tax cuts in the next election.

“It’s all very short-term thinking.”

But a Whitehall source struck back and insisted that the $ 96 billion integrated rail plan be closed.

“It’s not just about the money spent, but also about what can be delivered on time.”

Downing Street said the Prime Minister recognized the importance of rail to his rearmament agenda.

“That is why it is an absolute priority for the government,” said his official spokesman.

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