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Key ‘Northern Powerhouse’ rail projects in doubt

Published: Thursday, 2nd July 2015

The government has cast doubt over its so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative

This week it announced it has put on hold plans for the electrification of the Midland mainline from London to Sheffield and the TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds.

Both rail projects were seen as key elements of the Conservative administration’s election manifesto pledge to “rebalance” England’s economy with major infrastructure spending designed to boost the North.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told the Commons last Friday that the schemes had been “paused” because of escalating costs and missed targets in Network Rail’s work programme.

He told MPs: “Important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme are costing more and taking longer. Electrification is difficult.

“The UK supply chain for the complex signalling works needs to be stronger. Construction rates have been slow. It has taken longer to obtain planning consents from some local authorities than expected.”

Meanwhile in a separate but related development the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the northern branch of policy think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR North) have issued a ‘call for evidence’ on proposals to draw up a spatial planning framework for the north of England. One element of this would be greater integration between transportation and spatial planning.

The RTPI and IPPR North said they would be hosting a series of roundtable events in northern cities through the summer, which would feed into a ‘northern summit’ in Leeds in November to “discuss a way forward for a Great North Plan”.

View the statement to Parliament

Roger Milne