PLANS for rail investment in the north have been hailed as an “ambitious and unparalleled programme” to overhaul inter-city links across the north and Midlands.

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the House of Commons the new investment would “speed up the benefits for local areas and serves destinations people most want to reach”.

“This new blueprint delivers three high-speed lines. First, that’s Crewe to Manchester," Mr Shapps said. 

“Second, Birmingham to the East Midlands with HS2 trains continuing to central Nottingham and central Derby, Chesterfield and Sheffield on an upgraded mainline.

"And third, a brand new high-speed line from Warrington to Manchester and to the western border of Yorkshire – slashing journey times across the north.”

The Northern Echo:

But laughter could be heard from Labour MPs at the reference to the “western border” of Yorkshire.

Grant Shapps told MPs: “I’ve heard some people say that we’re just going about electrifying the TransPennine route – this is wrong.

“What we’re actually doing is investing £23 billion to deliver Northern Powerhouse rail and the TransPennine route upgrade, unlocking east-west travel across the north of England.

“So, in total, this package is 110 miles of new high-speed line, all of it in the midlands and the north.

“It’s 180 miles of newly-electrified line, all of it in the midlands and the north.”

Read more: Boris Johnson tells The Northern Echo how rail plans will impact North East

He added: “We’ll upgrade the east coast mainline with a package of investment on track improvements and digital signalling, bringing down journey times between London, Leeds, Darlington, Newcastle and Edinburgh – bringing benefits to the North East much, much sooner than under the previous plans.”

Mr Shapps also said: “We’ll study how best to take HS2 trains into Leeds as well.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary described the integrated rail plan announcement as a “great train robbery”.

Jim McMahon added that the Government had “betrayed” the North.

The Oldham West and Royton MP said Boris Johnson had broken a promise on HS2 made “60 times” in the past few years, adding: “Boris Johnson was elected to level the playing fields, to make things better for households across the country.

“We were promised a Northern Powerhouse, we were promised a Midlands Engine, to be levelled up. But what we have been given today is a great train robbery.”

Labour’s frontbench also contested the £96 billion headline figure promised for northern rail projects in the Government’s integrated rail plan.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “£96 billion, £40 billion of which has already been committed from London to Crewe, but is being labelled as investment across the North of England, and of the £56 billion that remains let us compare that to what the North of England would have got over the last decade had it had the same investment as London and the South-east: We are still £10 billion short.”

He added: “We are not going to accept crumbs off the table.”

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