Boris Johnson is facing rising anger over the Government’s plans to scrap the eastern leg of HS2 as well as Northern Powerhouse Rail, with an announcement expected today. Writing exclusively for The Northern Echo, the Prime Minister attempts to justify the decision, setting out his new plans to improve rail services across the North East.

FROM the moment I became Prime Minister, my mission has been to level up opportunity across our country.

So today we’re publishing our plan for transforming rail services in the Midlands and the North with £96 billion of construction and upgrades.

We’re doing this because fast and reliable rail connections are essential for generating jobs and growth.

More deeply, they join our country together, allowing people to move freely and achieve their goals.

So in the North East, we will invest billions in upgrading the East Coast Main Line, including with track improvements to allow more 140mph running, power upgrades, digital signalling and getting rid of pinchpoints which slow down trains.

These upgrades can take more than 20 minutes off the journey time from Newcastle to London, and 17 minutes off the journey from Darlington to London, making it a fraction over two hours.

From the North East to Manchester, we will cut journeys by more than 20 minutes.

These times are only a few minutes different from those proposed under the old plans by HS2, but they can be delivered around ten years earlier.

Our new Integrated Rail Plan will improve services far sooner than if we had stuck doggedly to earlier schemes, first devised more than a decade ago, which would have forced people in the North East to wait until the 2040s to see the benefits.

And we’re determined to avoid the mistake of concentrating on big projects at the expense of local services. For most of us, train journeys are seldom longer than 30 miles.

So you will see a range of improvements, including more contactless tap-in and tap-out ticketing, which should do away with queues at ticket windows and the multitude of confusing fares.

With a contactless system, you will be charged the best price for your journey automatically.

I’ve always said that talent and enterprise are spread evenly throughout Britain, but opportunity is not.

This government’s driving purpose is to change that dismal equation by levelling up opportunity across our country. Upgrading our transport links is central to achieving that ambition.

With better rail services I believe we can release talent everywhere.


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