Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said the Government’s plans for a scaled down Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme were “cheap and nasty.”

He was responding to leaked reports in The Independent newspaper, which said ambitious proposals to transform the region’s railway infrastructure were being abandoned because of costs.

One source was reported as saying the announcement – due to be made later this month – would be “bad news” for Liverpool as well as other northern regions.

READ MORE:Where Lime Street plans went wrong and what might happen next

In the case of Liverpool, it is expected hopes for a short 20-mile section of high-speed line linking the city to High Speed 2 (HS2) and the Northern Powerhouse Rail project will be disappointed.

It is thought the proposals – known as the Integrated Rail Plan – will now include a more limited upgrade to the existing line, leading to lower capacity and lower speeds than the fully funded alternative.

Mr Rotheram said the reports, if true, made a mockery of the Government’s “levelling up” agenda.

He said: “Northern Powerhouse Rail offers the most significant and tangible way to show the Government is serious about redressing the huge imbalance in investment, opportunity and ambition that exists between the North and South.

“For a number of years, Northern leaders have constructively engaged with government in what we believed to be meaningful talks on delivering the high-quality, high-speed intercity rail links that towns and cities right across the North desperately need to reach our full potential.

“If correct, to learn that the government has gone cold on levelling up via a leak to a Sunday newspaper is totally unacceptable. It now looks like they intend to shelve those plans. Not investing in the North now risks exacerbating the North South divide and increasing the burden on the Treasury in the long run. This in no way is building back better.”

He added: “Government ‘by leak’ needs to stop. I’ll be pressing for an urgent meeting this week with the Department of Transport and Treasury to press our case.

“We have told them in no uncertain terms we will not accept a sub-optimal solution to our transport needs. Cheap and nasty proposals neither help nor please anybody and could cause a detrimental economic impact that would be unacceptable to businesses and passengers alike.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport told The Independent newspaper: “The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b and other transformational projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the north and Midlands need and deserve.”

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