Chief executive Henri Murison says lack of clarity over crucial tunnel section has stalled northern rail project

Henri Murison has criticised Rishi Sunak for delaying a decision on a crucial section of the Northern Powerhouse Rail project and denounced this morning’s government announcement of former HS2 funds for councils as “simply PR”.

Sunak is holding a cabinet meeting in Yorkshire today where he will confirm that £4.7bn in funding that had been earmarked for HS2 will be given to councils in the north of England and the Midlands for local transport projects.

But Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), said the prime minister was “just repeating an old announcement” and the money would not make up for the costs of last October’s decision to cancel HS2’s northern leg to Manchester.

Sunak Yorkshire

Rishi Sunak meeting Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines in Yorkshire today

Murison said the NPP was still waiting for confirmation from the government that a section of the scrapped HS2 leg – a tunnel between Manchester airport and Manchester city centre – that is also needed for the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme will go ahead.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, he said: “We are waiting still for confirmation of that and the thing that concerns me, and I think should concern your listeners, is that we’ve lost time since October.

>> See also: HS2 cuts force Manchester airport to pare back growth expectations

“This government, in all its chopping and changing, chopped and changed on the integrated rail plan, Northern Powerhouse rail, much of it was lopped off. It’s now being put back on, but if we want the legislation to pass to enable us to build this railway, we need the route to be confirmed.

“At the moment the bill committee – which should be discussing how to build a tunnel, which would connect the North-west and Yorkshire – is doing nothing because this government hasn’t made an announcement.”

Re-allocated funds from the cancelled HS2 leg will see £2.5bn given to the north of England and £2.2bn handed to the Midlands. Sunak had promised in October to “reinvest every penny” of the £36bn saved from scrapping the route.

Labour has also criticised the “reannouncement”, describing it as a “back of a fag packet plan”.

>> See also: HS2 fallout sees Labour and construction united by common aim

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: “Local people are sick and tired of this government taking them for fools.

“Only the Conservatives could have the brass neck to promise yet another ‘transformation’ of transport infrastructure in the Midlands and North after 14 years of countless broken promises to do just that.”

“The Conservative record speaks for itself — record delays and cancellations on the rail network, 22 million more potholes and a record-breaking collapse in bus routes.”

Transport secretary Mark Harper is also expected to provide an update today on Network North, the government’s plan for redirecting HS2 funding which includes £8.3bn for fixing potholes over the next 10 years and £1bn for improving bus services in the North and Midlands.