Critics of a £1bn transport plan for the Tees Valley, which includes town centre tram services and millions of pounds worth of rail and road projects, have insisted ‘it will never happen’.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the transport vision for the area would be delivered using £1bn in funding secured after the scrapping of the northern leg of the HS2 rail line. It would include the introduction of tram services in five town centres as well as projects and studies for new rail and road links, including a four-lane Tees flyover.

Reaction to the various schemes on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, as well as on TeessideLive, was mixed. One described the plans as “pre election propaganda”, adding: “None of this nonsense will happen”.

Another said on Teesside Live: “Tomorrow Ben will promise everyone a unicorn. When it’s not delivered he will then blame the Labour councils.”

One reader described it as “more electioneering rubbish from Houchen”, and added: “None of it will ever happen.” Another said money was being “thrown around like confetti” on projects such as the proposed tram system.

“They won’t transform the region into “an economic powerhouse” because the money is all getting thrown about on whatever pet ideas Houchen has even though they make no sense and just squander money,” he said. While another wrote: “If you believe a word of this guff I’ve got a working Transporter Bridge to sell you”.

Others have welcomed the plans, however, with one reader describing critics as “doomsters”. They said: “Well done to Ben and his team for showing some ambition for the area.”

Another wrote: “This may not align with the mindset of the ‘politics people’ keyboard warriors we see in these comments columns, but like it or not Ben Houchen has done more for our area in the short time he’s been our elected mayor, than the all of stagnant numptys before him.”

Labour councillor Chris McEwan, who will take on Conservative Mr Houchen in next year’s Tees Valley mayoral elections, said if elected he would implement “an ambitious, long term strategy for our roads, rail and buses” and “not rely on gimmicks”. Regarding Mr Houchen’s transport vision, he said: “My initial instinct is Lord Houchen, in the same breath, decried HS2 as a white elephant and announced a plan for driverless cars to go with his underground tunnel and the hospital he doesn’t have the power to build.

“Proper investment in our roads and rail is long overdue and some of this work should’ve started seven years ago when he was first elected.” Following the controversial cancellation of the northern leg of HS2, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised an additional £8.55bn of funding to be provided through city region sustainable transport settlements (CRSTS).

The Tees Valley was allocated a total of £978m of funding for the second round of CRSTS funding for years 2027/28 to 2031/32. According to a TVCA report, the Government will provide an opprtunity for some of the funding to be brought forward into the last two years of CRSTS1 – 2025/26 and 2026/27.

In the meantime, the TVCA said it proposes to commit the CRSTS1 package toward the adjusted £1bn programme for development work, funded from CRSTS2, but there would be “no impact” on the delivery of schemes already agreed in CRSTS1. Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, previously accused Mr Houchen of “seeking to mislead” by claiming the cancellation of the HS2 would have no effect on people in the area.

And in response to the transport plans announcement, he said: “No funding from the cancellation of the Northern leg of HS2 will be available until 2027 and any money spent on these plans before then must come from previously allocated funds. In order to improve connectivity between the North East and Manchester, we need more capacity north of York to Newcastle. Without this we cannot add much-needed extra trains from Darlington.”

Regarding the scrapping of HS2, Mr Houchen previously said, even if it had been delivered “it would have benefited nobody in the North East”. In response to Mr Murison’s comments, he said: “It’s sadly no surprise the Manchester-based Northern Powerhouse Partnership is crying over Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool getting money to actually deliver on projects in this decade which will make a difference here.


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“I’m interested in what we need – which is better stations, more frequent trains on our own rail lines, and the ability bringing more freight in and out of our Freeport. With the money we’ve got from getting rid of the white elephant HS2 leg, we can make 100 times the impact any rail line in and out of Manchester would make – and quickly.”

The extensive plans include putting together a business case for electrification of the rail network from Northallerton to Saltburn to allow electric trains on the East Coast Main Line and Transpennine line to extend to the Tees Valley. A direct rail link between Darlington and Hartlepool is proposed along with delivery of a third platform at Middlesbrough Station “at a faster pace” to increase LNER services to and from London and deliver additional Northern services to Newcastle.

Responding to suggestions the plans would not come into fruition, Mr Houchen said: “It’s the same thing the Labour Party has said for the last five, six, seven years. They said I wouldn’t save the airport, we did.

“They said we’d never land a freeport, we did. They said we’d never bring the Treasury to Teesside and we did.

“Every opportunity, they’ve always been on the side of misery and saying we can’t get do things and we’ve always got on and delivered.” The proposed projects and funding allocations will be subject to a decision by the TVCA’s Cabinet later this month.