DAYS after taking office in July 2019, Boris Johnson said he wanted “to be the Prime Minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did for Crossrail in London”.

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) is the plan to build a high speed line from Liverpool to Leeds and then upgrade lines from Newcastle south to meet it.

It would operate in conjunction with the eastern leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Leeds – a line that for our part of the world is more about capacity than it is about speed. By 2040, when the second leg was due for completion, the East Coast Main Line will be even more crowded, and even more expensive, than it is now.

Part of the reason that the North-East has been living with the failings of the trans-Pennine service and rattling until recently on Pacers is because Crossrail sucked so much investment into London.

“Levelling up” was conceived to address that sort of unfairness, with NPR, and other transport improvements, at its heart – as Mr Johnson himself said.

Now it looks as if neither NPR nor the eastern HS2 is going to go ahead. Instead, on Thursday we’ll be offered a £96bn package of piecemeal improvements to existing lines that probably should have happened in the last decade had not all national investment been focussed on Crossrail in London.

If Mr Johnson “does for” – in the negative sense – both NPR and HS2, he will also derail “levelling up”.