Transport committee wants to see cost-benefit analysis on trimmed back Integrated Rail Plan

MPs have urged the government to take another look at its plans for a “once-in-a-generation” investment in rail services if it wants to level up the North.

The parliamentary Transport Committee’s report on the £96bn Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) for the North and Midlands says the wider economic benefits to northern cities of alternative options have not been properly tested.

The report outlined how the government’s plans for rail in the north – initially touted as great opportunity for growth in the region – had left cities like Leeds and Bradford disappointed.


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The Transport Committee has asked the government to commit to redeveloping Leeds station by 2035

Committee chair Huw Merriman said he welcomed the scale of spending proposed but said the finalised plans for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail do not meet “either the promises they believe were made or the prime minister’s stated aims”.

It called for an updated cost-benefit analysis for HS2 without the full eastern leg. The route had initially been planned to go to Leeds but was scaled back to terminate at East Midlands Parkway in the latest version of the IRP.

It also called for a full analysis of the wider economic impacts of the three options initially offered for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The IRP currently provides funding for option one, the cheapest of the three, which would see a new high speed line built, covering most of the distance from Liverpool to Leeds, with upgraded line covering the remainder.

Option two – estimated to cost an additional £11bn – was a new high speed line from Leeds to Manchester, including an underground station at Manchester, with connections for Sheffield services, a hub outside Bradford and a new line linking Warrington and Liverpool.

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A third option added a new underground central station at Warrington to the option two proposals.

The committee also asked the government to commit to redeveloping Leeds station by 2035 and that it set out a timetable by September for its study on how to take HS2 to the city.

It also said the government should reconsider the case for developing a new station in Bradford.

Merriman said: “The prime minister promised that he would, with Northern Powerhouse Rail, do for the North what he did for Londoners with Crossrail. Instead, much of the track will be an upgrade of existing line.

“The business case of HS2 was based on it going east to Leeds. Now, it stops in the East Midlands without any understanding of how much money is saved.”

Chris Richards, director of policy at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), said that the “theory” behind the IRP was “sound”, but that “the underlying evidence to back up whether these plans are going to be delivered on time and on budget, and crucially with the right outcomes, is not there”.

The ICE and the APPG for Infrastructure have launched a consultation looking into whether delivery of the IRP could be accelerated.

Northern mayors have written to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to call on whoever wins the Tory leadership race to meet them as part of the review recommended by the transport committee. In a letter today they mayors, including Manchester’s Andy Burnham, said it was a critical decision that affects the lives of generations of Northerners to come.