WARRINGTON is set to benefit from faster train journeys as part of the biggest ever public investment in Britain’s rail network to “level up more places, more quickly.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps are set to unveil plans to overhaul and modernise rail connections, with passengers seeing benefits ten years sooner than under previous plans under the Government’s new Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).
At £96bn, it is the biggest ever public investment in the rail network and will transform journeys to and between the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire and the North West.
The ambitious plan focuses on local services as well as high-speed links, improving connections for everyone, not just those travelling between the biggest cities.
Welcoming the news Warrington South MP Andy Carter said: “These are important steps in levelling up transport infrastructure in the North. Being able to tap in and out is normal on the railways in London. This investment will make using our railways and buses more efficient for the operators and better for anyone using public transport.
“Add this to the £24m investment into a new bus fleet in Warrington announced in the budget and we are starting to see the Government deliver a better deal for people in our town.”
From London and across the Pennines, the IRP delivers journey times which are the same as, similar to or faster than the original HS2 and Leeds-Manchester proposals, while doubling or trebling capacity and ensuring passengers and consumers benefit from tangible changes more quickly.
The new plan – full details of which will be published on Thursday – will not only strengthen connections between major cities in the North and Midlands, but improve shorter-distance routes which people depend on every day, with an emphasis on increasing capacity and more reliable services.
With £360m allocated for London-style contactless ticketing across commuter rail networks, the IRP is designed to improve not just rail links but to deliver price-capped integrated ticketing with local buses and trams – simplifying and streamlining thousands of daily journeys across the Midlands and the North.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “If we are to see levelling up in action now, we must rapidly transform the services that matter to people most.
“That’s why the Integrated Rail Plan will be the biggest transport investment programme in a century, delivering meaningful transport connections for more passengers across the country, more quickly – with both high-speed journeys and better local services, it will ensure no town or city is left behind.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “Throughout the pandemic, we stood by our railway and invested billions to keep the country moving, and we are about to unleash a £96 billion programme of investment that will transform a Victorian network into one befitting a modern country.
“The Integrated Rail Plan is designed to deliver for everyone, much sooner than under previous plans for rail schemes drawn up a decade ago, which no longer fit the way we travel today.
“Our plan will deliver a network that is fit for passengers today and for future generations – a network that works for every community and every passenger, right across the UK.”
The IRP was initiated after the Oakervee Review recommended an assessment of major transport schemes, like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, to produce a plan that would truly deliver for the North and the Midlands. This included looking at how to increase capacity and have more frequent services in a way that presented value for money for the taxpayer.
The IRP was drawn up after it became clear that the full HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail schemes as originally proposed would not enter service until the early to mid-2040s. It is framed by the Government’s commitment to deliver on its levelling up agenda by transforming connectivity for people right across the country and unlocking productivity in the North and the Midlands.
Commenting on the investment Clare Hayward MBE DL, Chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP said: “We welcome the greater certainty that the Integrated Rail Plan provides on the Crewe HS2 hub, its strategic location nationally, and the inclusion of the Crewe Northern Connection within the HS2 programme. We also welcome the confirmation of a new Northern Powerhouse Rail line and station which will allow easy interchange with Warrington Back Quay Station, connecting Warrington with Manchester Airport and Manchester via HS2. We now want to work with Government to ensure that all of our communities and residents can benefit from these and other investments announced today.
“Wider connectivity across a fully connected North will allow Cheshire and Warrington to achieve its full potential. We note that some of the major schemes for the North will not now go ahead, but that alternatives are being proposed. We will be taking time to properly consider the detail of the Plan, the implications of these alternatives and what they mean for our communities and businesses.”
But the plan is expected to confirm that HS2 will be curtailed – with its eastern leg extending to Leeds cancelled – and the Northern Powerhouse trans-Pennine route scrapped, despite the prime minister publicly promising to deliver both in the last two years.
The Northern Powerhouse Partnership says the cuts, which will see upgrades on the existing trans-Pennine line, will save just £4bn, and short-change commuters and businesses.
“Watering down Northern Powerhouse Rail for the sake of only 10% of the overall original budget of £39bn is unforgivably short-sighted from the Treasury,” said director Henri Murison.
“We were promised a new line between Manchester and Leeds, which could have included a stop in Bradford, one of the UK’s most dynamic cities, where productivity is held back by woefully bad transport connections.
“Now it looks like we’re only getting an upgrade, which will do nothing to solve the capacity problem on this key stretch of the route. We won’t be hoodwinked into believing we’re getting £96bn for a transport revolution in the North.”