THE North East will benefit from 'rapid' upgrades to the East Coast Mainline as part of a £96 billion package of rail construction and upgrades in the North and Midlands. 

Upgrades to the line in the North East, Yorkshire and East Midlands will make journey times 25 minutes faster, the Department for Transport (DfT) said. 

London to Newcastle journeys will also be cut by 21 minutes after the improvement work has been completed. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said trips from Newcastle to Birmingham will be slashed by almost 30 minutes, while passengers in Durham and Darlington will benefit from "smoother, more reliable trains".

Read more: What Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said after scrapping HS2 plan

A new 'Northern Powerhouse Rail' network will run from Newcastle, the Tees Valley and York to Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, and will see passengers travelling from Newcastle to Manchester have their journeys reduced by 22 minutes.

But the Government has been widely criticised for its scaled-back approach, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson promising in 2019 to build a new line between Manchester and Leeds.

Instead, a mixture of a newbuild high-speed and upgrades to the existing line will take place. 

Responding to the announcemnt, Northern Powerhouse Partnership Director Henri Murison said: "What Northern leaders had proposed was an economically transformational vision. What we have is, as ever, second class."

The Northern Echo: How campaigners hoped the Northern Powerhouse Rail network would lookHow campaigners hoped the Northern Powerhouse Rail network would look

Cllr Louise Gittins, Interim Chair of Transport for the North, was equally as scathing in her assessment of the plans. 

She said: “Today’s announcement is woefully inadequate. After decades of underfunding, the rail network in the North is not fit for purpose.

"It is largely twin-track Victorian infrastructure trying to cope with the demands of a 21st Century economy. Leaders from across the North and from across the party political divide came together to ask for a network that would upgrade the North for this century and in line with the rest of the country. 

"“If we truly want to level up the country we don’t need words and promises. We need commitment. We need investment."

But Mr Shapps said: "Our plans go above and beyond the initial ambitions of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail by delivering benefits for communities no matter their size, right across the North and Midlands, up to 10 to 15 years earlier.” 

The DfT said the initial plan would have made journeys between Leeds and Manchester only four minutes faster at a cost of an extra £18 billion, and would have taken up to a decade longer to deliver.  

HS2's Eastern leg between Birmingham and Leeds, which has now been scrapped, would have seen high speed trains joining the East Coast Mainline and continuing to Darlington and Newcastle - but will now not happen.

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