It's time for a U-turn on rail investment

By Dr Arianna Giovannini | 22 November 2021

The Integrated Railway Plan (IRP) published on 18 November has been quickly dubbed as ‘the great rail betrayal’ of 2021. It is hard to disagree with this view, as the announcement shows the true extent of broken promises and continuous underinvestment for the North’s transport system.

Substantial cuts on essential projects to which the government committed to – including the eastern leg of HS2, a new Leeds-Manchester fast line, and Bradford’s station – have been spun as prize gifts for the North. This is a myth that needs to be dispelled. First, the new plan contains £56bn already earmarked for HS2, leaving only £40bn to be split between the North and Midlands – so for the most part the IRP announcement involves scaled back promises rather than new investment. In addition, while the government claims that it will focus on ‘faster and more sustainable solutions’, the reality is that the North will only get a patchwork of small improvements and electrification of existing lines.

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