Yesterday, the long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) was released. There is no doubt the plan has caused ripples throughout the UK rail industry as it made significant changes to key projects such as HS2, including:    

  • The eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds has been cancelled and a full high-speed east-west line linking Manchester to Leeds will not be built, as the government insists that faster train journeys would be delivered “earlier and cheaper” under a £96bn rail plan.
  • The high-speed rail network will go ahead to Manchester but be curtailed at an existing east Midlands station, rather than run from Birmingham to Leeds.
  • The TransPennine route will be improved mainly through upgrades rather than a brand-new line.
  • The HS2 line from London to Birmingham and Manchester will still be built.
  • Funding is also expected to be put aside to explore setting up a tram service for Leeds and spend £360m on contactless ticketing, to 700 urban stations including 400 in the north.

Shapps remarked that the budget is five times more than was spent on Crossrail and ten times more than was spent on the Olympics and that the “revised plan will achieve the same, similar, or faster journey times to London and on the core Northern Powerhouse network than the original and will double – if not, triple – capacity on some services.” 

The Transport Secretary also confirmed that the government will start work on the IRP by Christmas, with £625m for the electrification between Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds and there will be a further £249m allocated to electrify the Midlands mainline  

With so many changes revealed, it will be interesting to see how things evolve over the course of the few months. The industry has long been looking for updates to be made such as an increased roll out of smart ticketing, however the plan has already received a significant amount of criticism. It will be a situation worth closely monitoring over the next few months, that much is certain.    

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Emma Lever

Author Emma Lever

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