Northern Powerhouse Rail ‘faces axe’, claims report

IT IS being claimed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold a meeting in secret as soon as today at which plans will be agreed to axe much of Northern Powerhouse Rail, including a high speed line across the Pennines which has been dubbed ‘HS3’.

The reason is said to be the rising costs of HS2, and Northern leaders say they are ‘deeply concerned’ about the claims, which appeared in the Sunday Express.

The Department for Transport has declined to confirm or deny the reports, pointing to the forthcoming Integrated Rail Plan, which it said will ‘outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b, the Transpennine route upgrade 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’.

Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison said: ‘In the Prime Minister’s first major policy speech in Manchester, he committed to building Northern Powerhouse Rail across the Pennines. Rumours that this commitment will be broken are deeply concerning for Northern leaders who are working towards rebalancing the economy. The North was promised HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full – to be abandoned now, just as we begin a recovery from the pandemic, would be a hammer blow.’

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin says she is demanding ‘urgent clarity’ from the DfT.

Meanwhile no date has yet been given for the publication of the DfT’s Integrated Rail Plan.