THE Prime Minister will announce a spending blitz this week as he lays the groundwork for the UK to spend its way out of the coronavirus downturn.

Last night it was announced that the vast building programme will include a decade-long schools rebuilding plan. A £1bn cash injection will see construction work start on the first 50 projects as soon as September 2021, Downing Street said.

Another £560m will go towards school repairs in this financial year while further education colleges will see £200m of the £1.5bn promised by Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the Spring Budget to transform college estates over the next five years fast tracked so work can be brought forward.

Mr Johnson, speaking before a school visit planned for today, said: “As we bounce back from the pandemic, it’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission.”

Investment will be targeted at school buildings in the worst condition across England – including “substantial investment” in the North and the Midlands.

The news comes as the Transport Secretary today confirms a £15m Government investment in rail journeys in the North-East.

The Northern Echo:

Included in this is County Durham’s Horden Station, which opens today. It has been a £10.55m project led by Durham County Council and Network Rail, and supported by £4.4m from the Department for Transport’s New Stations Fund.

Councillor Simon Henig, leader of the council, said: “It has been a long-held ambition to have a station at Horden so, after a number of years of hard work and commitment by ourselves and our partners, it’s fantastic that we are now ready to welcome the first train and the first passengers.

“This new facility will open up significant opportunities for communities across east Durham, by providing a direct transport link to Teesside, Wearside and Tyneside. And, of course, it will also make it easier for people from outside the area to travel to the east of the county, whether for business or pleasure.

“It is going to provide a major economic boost to the county and I’m sure residents and businesses will be keen to take advantage.”

With a train an hour, the County Durham station restores a vital link for up to 70,000 passengers in an area that has gone without a station over a 20-kilometre stretch since the previous one was closed in 1964.

Funds will also contribute towards the modernisation plans for Darlington station, which include two new platforms for local services, one new platform for southbound long-distance services and accessibility improvements.

The Northern Echo: Middlesbrough Station will see £35m invested. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.Middlesbrough Station will see £35m invested. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT.

Investment has also been agreed to develop proposals which would see Platform 2 at Middlesbrough Station extended for longer trains with more seats as well as a new platform, increasing capacity and comfort.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen welcomed today’s rail announcement, saying it is a “significant milestone in giving the North the investment it deserves”.

Laying out his vision for the country’s revival, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use a speech on Tuesday to announce the creation of a taskforce charged with fast-tracking the building of schools, hospitals, roads and prisons.

The annoucements reinforce comments from Health Secretary Matt Hancock who said the North’s levelling up agenda is “even more important” and the Government would redouble its efforts as Covid-19 highlights widespread disparities across the country.

Downing Street said the speed at which the NHS Nightingale hospitals were built during coronavirus inspired Mr Johnson to set up the infrastructure delivery taskforce, to be chaired by Mr Sunak. The group will be told there are now “no excuses for delays” to building programmes after demonstrating its pace during a national emergency.

Known as “Project Speed” among officials, the body will sift through the blueprints of major infrastructure projects which are in the pipeline and look to iron out any inefficiencies which could hold-up their delivery and stall the country’s recovery.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The coronavirus response has shown that it doesn’t have to take years to get essential projects off the ground – the Nightingale hospitals and ventilator challenge were up and running in a matter of weeks.

“As we recover from the pandemic we must apply that same urgency to the major projects at the foundations of this country and get them done right, to truly level up opportunity across the UK.

“There’s now no excuse for delays. Infrastructure has the power to rebuild and repair our country – and we will do it better, faster and more strategically than before.”