Boris Johnson accused of ‘promising sunlight and delivering moonlight’ over ‘woefully inadequate’ rail plan’
Northern leaders have slammed Boris Johnson’s “woefully inadequate” rail plan as Tory MPs accused him of “promising sunlight and delivering moonlight”.
Anger from Conservative backbenchers boiled over amid accusations of breaking key promises by scaling back rail plans in the North of England.
The Prime Minister was accused by a senior Tory MP of letting down voters after it was confirmed high speed rail links between Leeds and Manchester have been scrapped.
Huw Merriman, chairman of the Transport Select Committee, said: “The Prime Minister promised that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse rail was not an either/or option and those in Leeds and Bradford may be forgiven for viewing it today as neither.
“This is the danger in selling perpetual sunlight and leaving the others to explain the arrival of moonlight.
“Because on a standalone basis, this plan compromises some fantastic projects that will slash journey times and better connect our great northern cities, and for that the transport team deserves much credit.”
The long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan, published on Thursday, revealed the Government plans to scrap the Leeds branch of the High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) rail line and scale back Manchester to Leeds part of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton Kevin Hollinrake said: “One of the features of Northern Powerhouse Rail as I understood it was it was a completely new line from Leeds to Bradford to Manchester.
“That latter journey, Bradford to Manchester, was going to be 20 minutes. As I understand it now, would you confirm, it’d be more like 45 minutes from Bradford to Manchester.
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“And additionally the new station in Bradford, which would have given a Kings Cross-style regeneration opportunity for Bradford, which is really very severely in need of it, will now be missed.
“And will you confirm this is an economic price that will be paid for generations for not doing that?”
Mr Shapps denied this was the case the argued there were “lots of benefits for Bradford”.
Transport for the North – a coalition of politicians, leaders and transport experts tasked with helping to draw up the rail strategy – said the Government’s plan was “woefully inadequate”.
The cross-party group, which includes influential mayors Andy Burnham, Ben Houchen, Tracy Brabin, Steve Rotherham and Dan Jarvis as board members, said the announcement showed no evidence of Mr Johnson’s promise to “level up”.
Councillor Louise Gittins, interim chair, said: “After decades of underfunding, the rail network in the North is not fit for purpose.”
The “largely twin-track Victorian infrastructure” struggles to cope with modern demands, she said, adding that the Government had pledged less than half the £40bn network asked for by northern leaders.
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“The leaders of the North, jointly with Government, have worked hard to come up with an evidence-led plan to help reverse the chasm of under investment over the last four decades to give passengers in the North a railway network fit for today and for generations to come,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean a bit here and a bit there of minor upgrades to the existing network. It means transformational change for the whole rail network. That means building HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full.”
She said the coalition had “watched as billions have been poured into HS2 building work from London to Birmingham [and] Crossrail”.
“It is time for the North to have its fair share. It’s time for the North to have a proper railway network to allow our towns and cities, our businesses, and our people to thrive and grow for generations to come. It’s time for real evidence of levelling up,” she added.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the move showed that “levelling up” is “just a slogan”.
During a visit to a station in Bradford, the Labour leader said the Government was trying to hide that it had broken pledges to voters.
“If you can’t level up in Bradford then the whole levelling-up agenda is seen for what it really is, and that is just a slogan,” he said.
The plan has confirmed reports that the eastern leg of HS2 will no longer go all the way to Leeds and will, instead, run only as far as the East Midlands near Nottingham.
The Manchester to Leeds section of he Northern Powerhouse Rail will has been scaled back to include upgrades along the existing transpennine route- rather than a new line. Only part of this will be a new high-speed line.
The Prime Minister was accused by a senior Tory MP of letting down voters in the north.