The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Thursday 18 November.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the future of the railway.
Today I am proud to announce our integrated rail plan. It is a £96 billion programme that will transform rail services in the north and the Midlands—the largest single rail investment ever made by a UK Government, and an investment that, rather than being felt decades into the future, will arrive much, much sooner. This unprecedented commitment to build a world-class railway that delivers for passengers and freight, for towns and cities, and for communities and businesses, will benefit eight of the 10 busiest rail corridors across the north and the Midlands, providing faster journeys, increased capacity and more frequent services up to 10 years sooner than previously planned.
When I became Transport Secretary in 2019, the HS2 project was already about 10 years old. I was concerned that costs were rising and newer projects such as the Midlands rail hub and Northern Powerhouse Rail had not been fully factored into the plans. Under the original scheme, the HS2 track would not have reached the east Midlands and the north until the early 2040s. Clearly, a rethink was needed to ensure that the project would deliver as soon as possible for the regions that it served, and that is how the integrated rail plan was born—through a desire to deliver sooner.
The Prime Minister and I asked Douglas Oakervee to lead the work and make recommendations on the best way forward. One of his key criticisms was that HS2 was designed in isolation from the rest of the transport network. The original plans gave us high-speed lines to the east Midlands but did not serve any of the three biggest east Midlands cities. For example, if someone wanted to get to Nottingham or Derby, they would still have had to go to a parkway station and change on to a local tram or train. Oakervee made a clear and convincing case for considering HS2 as part of an integrated rail plan, working alongside local, regional and national services, not just those travelling between our biggest cities. We accepted those recommendations and asked the National Infrastructure Commission to develop options.
The commission came back with two key suggestions: first, that we adopt a flexible approach, initially setting out a core integrated rail network, but that we remain open to future additions as long as expectations on costs and timing are met; and, secondly, that strengthening regional rail links would be most economically beneficial for the north and Midlands—connecting towns with the main railway networks, and bringing hope and opportunity to communities that have felt left behind for too long—and that we should bring these benefits to passengers and local economies as soon as possible. Those are the guiding principles behind the integrated rail plan that I am announcing today. It is an ambitious and unparalleled programme that not only overhauls intercity links across the north and Midlands but speeds up the benefits for local areas and serves the destinations that people most want to reach.
This new blueprint delivers three high-speed lines: first, Crewe to Manchester; secondly, Birmingham to the east midlands, with HS2 trains continuing to central Nottingham, central Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield on an upgraded main line; and thirdly, a brand new high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester and the western border of Yorkshire, slashing journey times across the north .
I have heard some people say that we are just going about electrifying the trans-Pennine route. That is wrong. We are actually investing £23 billion to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail and the trans-Pennine route upgrade, unlocking east-west travel across the north of England. In total, this package is 110 miles of new high-speed line, all of it in the Midlands and the north. It is 180 miles of newly electrified line, all of it in the Midlands and the north. I remind the honourable Member for Oldham West and Royton, Jim McMahon, of Labour’s 63 miles of electrified line in 13 years. We will upgrade the east coast main line with a package of investment on track improvements and digital signalling, bringing down journey times between London, Leeds, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh, and bringing benefits to the north-east much, much sooner than under the previous plans. This adds capacity and speeds up services over more than 400 miles of line, the vast majority of it in the Midlands and the north. We will study how best to take HS2 trains to Leeds as well. We will start work on a new west Yorkshire mass transit system, righting the wrong of that major city not having a mass transit system, probably the largest in Europe not to have one. We commit today to supporting West Yorkshire Combined Authority over the long term to ensure that this time it actually gets done.
In short, we are about to embark on the biggest single act of levelling up of any Government in history. It is five times more than what was spent on Crossrail and 10 times more than what was spent on delivering the Olympics, but Opposition Members still think it is a small package. It will achieve the same, similar or faster journey times to London and on the core Northern Powerhouse Rail network than the original proposals, and will bring the benefits years earlier, as well as doubling, or in some cases tripling, the capacity.
Let me set out a few of these investments. Rail journeys between Birmingham and Nottingham will be cut from an hour and a quarter to 26 minutes, city centre to city centre. Journeys between York and Manchester will be down to 55 minutes, from 83 minutes today. Commuters will be able to get from Bradford to Leeds in just 12 minutes, almost half the time it takes today. There will be earlier benefits for places such as Sheffield and Chesterfield. Trips from Newcastle to Birmingham will be slashed by almost 30 minutes, and passengers in Durham and Darlington will benefit from smoother, more reliable trains. The IRP delivers not just for our largest cities but for smaller places and towns. For example, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Grantham, Newark, Retford, Doncaster, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Stalybridge could all see improvements, electrification or faster services, benefiting in ways they would not have done under the original HS2 programme.
We are not stopping there. Today’s plan is about those places that connect and interact with HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail and the scale of ambition, with many of these projects lying outside the scope. Only yesterday, I opened the first reversal of the Beeching axe. We will be doing the same in Northumberland for the Ashington-Blyth-Newcastle line and many others. We are investing £2 billion in cycling and walking, £3 billion in turn-up-and-go bus services, and tens of billions in our country’s roads. After decades of decline, with constrained capacity and poor reliability, this plan will finally give passengers in the north and the Midlands the services they need and deserve.
It is not just about infrastructure; we are going to make train travel much easier as well. Today I can confirm £360 million to reform fares and ticketing, with the rollout of contactless pay-as-you-go ticketing for 700 urban stations, including 400 in the north.
This is a landmark plan, by far the biggest of any network improvement and focused on the north and the Midlands. With more seats, more frequent services, and shorter journeys, it meets the needs of today’s passengers and future generations. We are getting started immediately with another £625 million for electrification between Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, bringing the total on the trans-Pennine route upgrade to £2 billion and counting, and £249 million to further electrify the Midland main line between Kettering and Market Harborough, with work starting on the integrated rail plan by Christmas.
Communities of every size will benefit, right across the north and Midlands, in many cases years earlier than planned. By taking a fresh look at HS2, and how it fits with the rest of the rail system, we will be able to build a much-improved railway that will provide similar or better services to almost every destination than the outdated vision drawn up for HS2 over a decade ago. This plan will bring the north and Midlands closer together, fire up economies to rival London and the south-east, rebalance our economic geography, spread opportunity, level up the country and bring benefits at least a decade or more earlier. I commend this Statement to the House.”
This integrated rail plan is in reality about backtracking on government promises to build the eastern leg of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. The Government know that HS2 and full delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail would have given a major boost to the economies of our northern cities, because that is what the construction and pending completion of HS2 have already done and will continue to do for the economy of the West Midlands and Birmingham in particular. Leeds and the local West Yorkshire economy will now be denied the full £54 billion of estimated economic benefits of their HS2 link, with Leeds becoming a less attractive venue than it would have been for new and expanding businesses. Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered in full, with a new high-speed line through Bradford, was also set to deliver an estimated £22 billion for northern economies. The integrated rail plan does not address the impact of backtracking on the eastern leg of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail on the economies of our northern cities and towns, and there was no government answer when I asked about it last Thursday.
Typically, this Government are now seeking to silence opposition to their watered-down plan, since Transport for the North, which is overseen by all the northern mayors and council leaders, has just been told that it will no longer be financed by central government to develop Northern Powerhouse Rail and that in future this work will be funded directly, and thus controlled directly, via Network Rail by the Department of Transport, a reflection of the Government’s centralising tendency and lack of enthusiasm for real devolution of power and decision-making.
The Government’s integrated rail plan, which incidentally says very little about rail freight at all, places great weight on the virtues of upgrades of existing lines and the time in which they can be completed and the costs incurred. In doing so, though, the rail plan and the Secretary of State fail to reflect the very different experience of recent major upgrades. The west coast main line was upgraded at a cost of £9 billion, nearly four times the original cost estimate of £2.5 billion. Despite costs ballooning nearly 400%, the upgrade still had to be reduced in scope from 140 mph top speed to 125 mph with moving block signalling, in-cab signalling, being abandoned; otherwise, the cost would have been up by nearly 600%. The project led to substantial upheaval to existing services over a period of years and was not completed until 2009, very late and 10 years after it started.
Work on the Great Western electrification commenced in June 2010 and was due to be completed in 2016-17, but was not completed until 2019-20. The project ran into major difficulties, causing repeated extensions to deadlines and costs to increase by more than 300%, to around £2.8 billion in 2018 from £874 million in 2013. Despite this dramatic increase in costs, the project still had to be scaled back to keep cost increases merely in excess of three times the original figure. Electrification from Didcot Parkway to Oxford, Cardiff to Swansea, Chippenham to Bath and Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads, as well as branches to Henley and Windsor, were also deferred indefinitely by the Government in November 2016, with the Cardiff to Swansea electrification being cancelled outright in July 2017.
The message is clear: upgrading routes is not as straightforward as the Government suggest. The hard evidence shows that costs will be very much higher than projected and the time taken to do the work a great deal longer than projected. Statements plucked out of the air about being able to deliver a watered-down version of what was promised a decade earlier than projected fly in the face of the facts and experience. Such statements also fly in the face of the Government’s own document, which indicates that the new lines on part of the watered-down Liverpool to Leeds route will not come into service until the 2040s—the same timescale within which the Prime Minister, in his foreword to the plan, says that high-speed lines under the original plan will have reached the east Midlands and Yorkshire.
Further, on costs, there is no breakdown of costings for each separate project within the plan, or a breakdown of any large figures within each separate project. There is also a further issue: the watered-down schemes outlined in the rail plan are dependent for delivery, on both projected capacity and speeds, on digital signalling. But I believe, perhaps mistakenly, that there is not yet a substantial tried and tested digital signalling scheme as envisaged by Secretary of State already in full operation. Indeed, people have so far been working on trying to develop such a scheme for more than 20 years. If there is a delay in the projected timescale for bringing such an as yet untried signalling development to fruition, even the watered-down schemes as projected in the rail plan will be severely compromised in respect of capacity, speed and timescale.
In the past decade, the north of England received £349 per person in transport spending, while London got £864. If the north had received the same level of spending as London, it would already have had £86 billion more since 2010. Yet this rail plan, worth £96 billion, some of which is in the south at the southern end of HS2, will take well into the 2040s at best to complete, considerably over two decades away. This plan, with its backtracking on previous pledges and reductions in previously stated future levels of expenditure, continues, not addresses, regional investment inequalities. So much for the Government’s levelling up and delivering HS2 in full, including the eastern leg, and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
My Lords, I recall a particularly funny episode of “Yes Minister” in which the Prime Minister asked Jim Hacker to produce an integrated transport plan. It was called “The Bed of Nails”, and I was reminded of that episode over the weekend as I watched the Secretary of State valiantly trying and failing to sell this plan as a success for the north of England. It takes a lot of ingenuity to produce a plan that almost doubles the time it will take to get, for example, from Birmingham to York, and still call it an improvement on previous plans.
Despite the Secretary of State’s sleight of hand, the plan has not been well received. The Government have managed to unite the elected mayors of the north, the chambers of commerce in Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Birmingham, east Lancashire, Doncaster, the east Midlands and even London, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Conservative MPs for northern constituencies and the Conservative chair of the Transport Committee in opposing and criticising the Government’s plan.
Not surprisingly, one of the critics was Transport for the North, and for that it has been stripped of its powers, which seems a very strange approach to levelling up. I join the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in asking the Minister to explain why control of the Northern Powerhouse Rail project will now lie solely with central government—what is it that makes Ministers so sure that they know better than the people of the north about what they need in relation to railways?
The most high-profile decision was, of course, to truncate HS2 by abandoning the eastern leg. Those cities that had expected to be directly linked to a new 21st-century rail line have developed investment plans predicated on that and expected an economic boost along those lines. They now have to start again following a massive no-confidence vote by the Government. As the noble Lord said, transport spend per head is scarcely more than one-third of the size that it is in London. In her answer to me last Thursday, the Minister admitted that abandoning HS2 and reducing the Northern Powerhouse Rail plans
“saves the taxpayer billions of pounds.”—[Official Report, 18/11/21; col. 407.]
I suggest to the Minister that this approach is totally unacceptable. What do the Government plan to do to redress the balance now that their levelling-up promises to the north of England lie in tatters?
HS2 was always as much about capacity as speed. The Government are going instead for a patchwork of schemes, with short stretches of electrification. Digital signalling, which has long been promised, and longer platforms for longer trains will create some extra capacity but it does not compare with what a whole new railway would do. The Government promised to electrify 13,000 kilometres of railway by 2050 and so far have done 2.2% of that. So we are 235 years behind schedule. I ask the Minister: after all the stretches referred to in the plan have been completed, what percentage will we be on?
Finally, one of the reasons for building a new line is that the upgrading of existing lines is enormously disruptive. As a veteran of 10 years of Great Western’s electrification, I can attest to that. What calculations have the Government made of the cost of disruption for the lines they propose to upgrade?
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for their considered responses to the integrated rail plan. I too had the opportunity, over the weekend, to read the documents in detail and consider the sorts of questions I might face today. Actually, noble Lords have not disappointed so far in the issues that they have raised—and I accept that they feel very strongly about this.
Having read the documents and considered this more carefully, I think the integrated rail plan is an elegant solution. We had a very outdated plan, the old plan, which did not properly take into account some developments, particularly from the national transport bodies, notably Transport for the North and Northern Powerhouse Rail, and Midlands Engine Rail, Midlands Connect and the Midlands Rail Hub. None of them had a proper look-in in the plans. We saw that costs were rising and that the whole thing did not fit well together, so it was absolutely right for the Government to go back, look at the plans, set them all out and consider what we are actually trying to achieve. The goal is not to build new railways; it is just something that enables people to get from A to B more quickly, more frequently and at a cheaper cost. That is what we are trying to do.
How we choose to do that is a combination of stretches of new railway, as noble Lords know, and some upgrades to existing railways. That is a very elegant situation that comes at a lower cost to the taxpayer. I will not and see no reason to apologise for that at all. It also happens much more quickly than it would otherwise, so we need to take a step back. There are a lot of winners here. I would like to be living in Nottingham, quite frankly; people there are going to have a great time. Good old Derby will have direct access to HS2, which it was nowhere close to prior to this. Also, all the places along the Midlands main line will get electrification and have more reliable journeys now. They did not even get a look-in in the old plans.
We have taken a more considered approach to the system as a whole. I accept that life has changed slightly for Leeds, but Leeds is also benefiting from this. We have said that we will spend £100 million on looking at how to get HS2 to Leeds. We will look at whether the current station can absorb the additional capacity and we will finally start work on the West Yorkshire mass transit system. This is great news for Leeds, so I do not share the doom and gloom of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about its economic future. Actually, having a train line that goes to Manchester is just one of the things that people in Leeds might want; they might also want to travel around their own city on a mass transit system. I think we have been able to help Leeds in this regard. The impact on economies will be set out in the business cases for all the different schemes, as we go forward.
On TfN and its change of role, this is not at all unusual within the Department for Transport. We have a good relationship with TfN and it has an important role in providing us with statutory advice. However, the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme will be in the Government’s major projects portfolio and it requires clear accountability to the Secretary of State. Therefore, the client will be the Department for Transport, but that does not cut out Transport for the North. It has a joint sponsorship role, and again it is important that it can offer advice and knows what is going on with the project. In terms of delivery, however, it must be accountable to the Secretary of State to make sure that we keep things moving as we need to.
There was a comment about the Government not being a fan of devolution, on which I beg to differ. The city region sustainable transport settlements have committed £5.7 billion to our major cities. That is truly transport devolution on a large scale.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, came up with a litany of delays that had happened previously. I do not disagree that sometimes large transport infrastructure projects suffer from delays. None of us involved in transport likes delays but sometimes they happen. However, I am not entirely sure why they would not then happen to elements of HS2. Given that the previous full “Y” going all the way up was not going to be delivered until the mid-2040s, my goodness, we could be looking to the mid-2060s before that was delivered then, had it been delayed. I am not sure that that is necessarily a reason for not liking the Government’s plans.
On the issue of disruption, all transport infrastructure projects are disruptive. We know that. However, the approach taken by this IRP will cause less disruption that previous plans would have. For example, the HS2 eastern leg in full would have caused significant disruption to the motorway network. It would have crossed it 13 times. I am the Roads Minister—that disruption would have been quite challenging. We know that enhancements to existing lines will ease bottlenecks and make rail services more reliable. We will work very closely with the rail industry to minimise disruption as the schemes are developed and delivered.
I turn now to the issue of digital signalling. If I may, I will write on this issue so I can provide the most up-to-date information that I have.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked what percentage will be electrified when this is all finished. In my brief I have the figure of 75%, which I want to check. It feels right—but you think, okay, we are going to go from quite a small percentage to 75%. We are going to be electrifying hundreds of miles of railway line, so this probably is right but, again, I will write to 100% confirm that number. This is a huge electrification programme, as I am sure the noble Baroness will understand.
Let us turn to money. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned it and so did the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. This is the sort of thing that I get a little bit confused by. We are in a strange parallel universe where it matters only how much you are spending rather than what you are spending it on. That strikes me as bizarre. People are saying to me “But you are not spending this money on this railway line,”. No, but we are providing more benefits to more people, more quickly for less money. Surely that is a good thing.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that I believe that the leader of the Opposition has in mind to establish something called the value for money office, should he ever become Prime Minister. He may well think that that is a very good idea. But I say to the noble Lord that, if he had the Government’s integrated rail plan at £96 billion—providing some pretty good service uplifts and some good improvements in journey times—versus the previous outdated plans costing £185 billion, and if he were to give those to this new-fangled value for money office, I wonder which one it would choose.
My Lords, if the Minister believes that this solution of hers is so elegant, why have she and fellow Ministers been advocating something different for so many years? That is the first and obvious question. The second one is that she talks about capacity. Is she aware that any student of the railways will tell you that capacity on a stretch of line is governed by the speed of the slowest train? Taking fast trains away and running them on their own infrastructure enables capacity to be increased on other lines too. The mixture of freight trains, slow passenger trains and fast passenger trains, as well as HS2, will not increase capacity; indeed, rather the reverse.
Finally, what the Government propose will mean years of delay, dislocation and bus substitution because, as we proved as far back as the 1960s, it is impossible to run an intensive service on a railway while you are improving it and electrifying it. It just cannot be done.
I hope that we are able to prove the noble Lord, Lord Snape, wrong in that regard. Obviously, we have done a significant amount of work on this and we believe it can be done. In terms of the fact that we have previously been advocating for a different style of network, I do not see that is a particular issue. Sometimes when the facts change, you have to change what you are proposing. The issue here is: do we have endless amounts of money? No, we do not. Can we deliver very good improvements to service for just under half the amount of money? I think we can. The other thing is that we can use the money we are not spending for other vital investments, so it is not such that that money is suddenly disappearing.
The noble Lord talked about capacity, and this is a really important point: the capacity constraints on the west coast main line are far greater than on the east coast main line. We will be able to get capacity improvements on the east coast mainline. It is far more important that we improve capacity on the west coast main line, which is why we have developed the plans that we have.
My Lords, Bradford does not come out very well, or have any joy, from this. I was very unhappy with the way in which the Minister answered questions on Thursday; I thought she was condescending to the House, which was inappropriate. I am glad that she is now engaging with the reasoned arguments others are making.
There are a number of inaccuracies in this paper. It refers to “introducing” an electrified line from Leeds to Bradford—but I travel on an electrified line from Leeds to the north of Bradford most weekends. It also refers to “electrifying” the Leeds to York section. I happened to travel on that on Monday of last week and the gantries for the electric wires are already up—so I suspect that the investment for that has already been made and it is not new money. So I puzzle over the accuracy of some of what is being said.
I ask, however, about capacity across the Pennines, because clearly the biggest cost of the new line from Leeds to Manchester via Bradford would have been the tunnel through the Pennines. The capacity across the Pennines is extremely tight and, unless one doubles the Standedge tunnel, you are going to have a choke point on upgrading the line between Leeds and Manchester via Huddersfield. Do the Government intend to double the Standedge tunnel, or would they consider that?
A cost-benefit analysis of the Calder Valley and north-east Lancashire—the latter being one of the poorest areas in England—would show that a more northerly line between Leeds and Manchester would spread benefits economically in a way which upgrading the current line simply will not do.
Well, I am very happy to write to the noble Lord on the detail of his question, as I am not well versed on the tunnels et cetera in the area to which he referred. I apologise if he felt that I was condescending to the House on Thursday. It is, of course, always very funny to be asked lots of questions based on the media rather than the actual documents, which had not been published at that time—and of course the questions were about upgrading, and I could not answer them. Maybe the noble Baroness had read the documents, but I had not, so I could not answer.
Bradford will benefit from electrification of the line to Leeds, and improved journey times will mean that you can get from Bradford to Leeds in 12 minutes—that is quite some distance in 12 minutes. I wish I could get that far in London. So it will benefit, and I think that we will look at various other projects as well. Part of the whole issue we are looking is the core pipeline work, which is set out in the Integrated Rail Plan, but we will look at any other scheme and service that will offer further improvements. This is exactly what the National Infrastructure Commission suggested that we do. This is the Integrated Rail Plan, and this is the core pipeline of work and, if noble Lords have suggestions for other schemes that would be affordable, would further improve our ability to improve services, and would be deliverable, I would really appreciate it if noble Lords would forward them to us.
My Lords, is it not the case that the credibility of these proposals depends on long-term political consensus? We are not here until 2040 and 2060, sitting around this Chamber. Years ago, I did a couple of jobs for the World Bank on transport infrastructure investment, returns and so on. It is absolutely vital that you nail down the fact that it has got to have long-term political consensus. In this country we are not even trying to do that in terms of the Government opening the door to other people to try to agree on some proposals.
Does the Minister recognise what Hilary Benn said the other day, that the proposals put forward as a long-term plan—for nearly a hundred years, as the Victorians did—would have had
“Victorian railway engineers scratching their heads in disbelief”?—[Official Report, Commons, 18/11/21; col. 740.]
What will the Government do to ensure there is scope for getting together proposals—including some of these—systematically to achieve a long-term cross-party consensus? That is the only way that they will not fall flat on their face.
I hope that I have just outlined to the noble Lord that we will continue to look at schemes that we can put in place in addition to the core pipeline. The RNIP will be published in due course. I hope that will reassure noble Lords that there is a programme in place, and that we will take forward some of the commitments that we have already made. As I have said, I look forward to hearing suggestions from whichever side of the House.
One of the problems that the Government face is about expectations, and the rise in expectations as far as transport is concerned. The Secretary of State made a number of important announcements last week, some of which have been called for. The problems of overruns in railways—I certainly had my fair share of them when I was Secretary of State—is common to the industry. I wish Network Rail well in its attempts to keep these under control. I come to the point that HS2, which will be 75% built as originally put forward, was always about capacity. It is very important that the question of capacity be properly addressed. I see from the plan published by the Secretary of State last week that the Government are still looking at options for HS2 to Leeds. The areas that have blight at the moment, because they are being considered as options for that, will continue to have that blight. I hope that the Government will come to conclusions on those options as quickly as possible. I wish my noble friend well, and I wish the Government well in ensuring that the public transport that we all want to see is actually delivered.
I appreciate the wise words of my noble friend. It is the case to a certain extent that some people’s expectations were not met by this plan but, as I have said, there are many things to commend it. I have already mentioned Nottingham and Derby, and there are so many other places that will benefit from this plan. This really is building back better but also with better value for money. I know that a number of noble Lords have questions around capacity. I will include in my letter to noble Lords how we intend to improve capacity in various ways on different parts of the railway; it is all set out in the plan but it might be helpful if I draw it all together for noble Lords. I will also perhaps arrange an open meeting with Minister Stephenson so that noble Lords can quiz him; he is the person who knows this back to front.
My Lords, in reaching the decision to end the HS2 track in the east Midlands rather than Leeds, and HS2 trains at Sheffield rather than Newcastle, what economic impact assessment was done by the Government of the effects on both Yorkshire and the north-east—given that private developer investment will inevitably follow the HS2 track due to the extra capacity that it will provide—or is it the case that no impact assessment on Yorkshire and the north-east has actually been done?
As I explained previously, different places are getting different things. The impact from an economic perspective will therefore be varied. The integrated rail plan gives more certainty to people who want to invest in various places. Quite frankly, I were a business, I would still look very favourably on Leeds. It is about to have a mass transit system that no one has previously managed to give it.
My Lords, I was back in Yorkshire at the weekend, as I am sure everyone would expect. It is hard to convey the anger and sense of betrayal felt across the whole of the north, but particularly in the whole of Yorkshire. There are so many issues to discuss but, frankly, Leeds does not need to be told from down here exactly what is good for it. While a tram will be very welcome it does not in any way, shape or form compensate for the loss of connectivity or address the congestion of Leeds station, given the cancelling of the proposals that the plan put forward last week.
I was going to ask the Minister about the upgrading of the lines and the chaos it will cause. We all remember the timetabling chaos. If the work east of Marsden is not addressed with alternative routes, goodness knows what is going to happen to us. Throughout the document, which I read, there is reference to post-Covid changes of transport use—the fact that the tram will take away the need for investment in the station. Is the Minister aware that levels of passenger use going through Leeds station are already back to pre-Covid levels, and that at weekends it is actually above that level? Please, what are the plans doing to address the fact that if we do not get the investment we need, Leeds City station will fall over within the next four or five years?
I just reiterate that we have absolutely not ruled out getting HS2 to Leeds. It is part of the wider pipeline of work that we are considering; obviously, the station is critical to that as well; as is the mass transit. Among the key things that I need to reassure noble Lords of in this are the capacity and track improvements, along with the digital signalling and all the things that we hope to do on the east coast main line. As I said earlier, it is not as needful of extra capacity as the west coast main line. We believe that by making the improvements, we will see faster journey times to Leeds, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh. We will also see those journey times reduce far sooner than we would have done with the old plans.
My Lords, I too live in Yorkshire and am proud to do so. I can confirm that there is an extraordinary sense of anger and betrayal as regards the plan for rail infrastructure in the county. I want to address the issue of rail freight, which has one page in the document—one page. There is a line in the document which says that the aim is to take road haulage off the M62 and transfer it to rail. I hope the Minister can answer on this, because within the plan there are no specific aims for the volume of haulage that it is intended to get off road and on to rail. There are no specific proposals for hubs and terminals where the exchange can take place. There is nothing about logistics, which are essential, and no specifics for rail infrastructure other than a possibility—I think that is the word in the plan—of a third track on the part of the trans-Pennine route from Huddersfield to Marsden. Of course, following Marsden is the Standedge tunnel, which has already been raised.
Can the Minister provide details as to how this modal shift from road to rail is going to occur, in what volume and to what timescale? While I am at it, she mentioned that £200 million has been allocated for mass transit in Leeds so I quickly ask her: since £100 million of that has already been allocated to a discussion about how to get HS2 to Leeds, and there is only £100 million for the Leeds transit, what will that buy?
The work on Leeds mass transit will be driven by West Yorkshire Combined Authority. It will be its plan, but we will support it on that and ensure that we can get the best possible outcome for the people of Leeds in terms of getting mass transit in place. As the noble Baroness knows, West Yorkshire Combined Authority received a very good settlement from the CRSTS. As that extends for only five years and this will need longer development than that, we commit to continue working with the authority on the mass transit system.
The noble Baroness mentioned rail freight. She is right that this does not leap out of the pages of the IRP, but it is not really supposed to. Rail freight is absolutely a feature of the Williams-Shapps rail review and the work we are doing there. As we put in place Great British Railways, we will focus on national co-ordination of rail freight, again looking for projects to make sure that this can happen as easily as possible.
As I have mentioned numerous times, this is not the end and there are other projects that could be added to this to improve it. We will introduce a new, rules-based track access regime with a statutory underpinning for freight and open-access operators. Essentially, we want to maximise the usage of a very extensive and expensive national asset. Rail freight is at the core of much of what we are doing on the railways, as well as many of our wider discussions on freight.
My Lords, as has been said, reduced passenger numbers are mentioned at a number of points in the document as justification for some of the changes. Can the Minister confirm whether changed modelling in predictions of journeys has been part of that? If that has not been locked into the numbers, or if there is so much uncertainty over those numbers, does that not mean that there is a grave risk that even the reduced expansion which was announced last week could be further reduced if hybrid working creates more of a structured change in passenger flows than previously thought?
The noble Lord raises a really important question. I have stood at this Dispatch Box and been asked many times how we will change capacity based on what has happened post Covid. We are confident that things will continue to change and that we will see greater usage. We are also quite sure that that usage may not look exactly the same as it did.
One of the biggest issues with the old plan was that it was not properly integrated with other local, regional and national transport networks. We think we can do that much better. Detailed modelling and up-to-date forecasting will happen whenever a business case goes through its various stages. I would not expect any wholesale changes, but this may lead us to think about what infill and other schemes we might consider in order to maximise our initial investment in the IRP. That might be something we should look at in light of future forecasts for demand.