December 5, 2021

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Integrated Rail Plan: Government slaps down calls for Commons vote on Boris Johnson’s proposals

Integrated Rail Plan: Government slaps down calls for Commons vote on Boris Johnson’s proposals
The Government has slapped down calls to hold a free Parliamentary vote on Boris Johnson’s rail plans after he was challenged to put them to the test with MPs.

Moves to scale back parts of the high-speed rail upgrades from the Midlands to the North of England sparked anger among those in the regions affected.

Labour said that, if Mr Johnson were truly confident in its plans, he would hold a free vote to allow Tory MPs representing northern constituencies to vote how they wish.

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But, when asked if Mr Johnson would hold such a vote, a Government source said: “No”.

They told i: “Our new Integrated Rail Plan will see faster and better journeys, benefiting more people and more places across the Midlands and North, and deliver them more quickly than under original plans.”

Mr Johnson was accused of a “betrayal” after it was announced the eastern leg of the HS2 high speed rail line was being scrapped, and the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) link from Manchester to Leeds would be downgraded.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed rail times and capacity would be improved at a faster rate than the previous strategy would have done.

He insisted the Government was fulfilling its pledge and accused those criticising the proposal of “completely misleading people”.

Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon told i the Government was under pressure to reconsider the proposals.

“What we saw was a betrayal of voters in the North. The Prime Minister promised to deliver new lines that would better connect the North and improve rail services. He broke that promise,” he said.

“Pressure is mounting on this own side to backtrack on Thursday’s announcement. The Prime Minister should listen to Labour and his own side and recommitment to building these two lines in full.

“If the Government is confident about its plans, it should bring a vote to Parliament and test the will of the House.”

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It comes after mayors and council leaders from authorities across northern England – including Bolton’s Conservative leader Martyn Cox – wrote to Mr Johnson demanding a Commons vote.

In the letter they said: “We are concerned that by omitting both the Eastern Leg of HS2 and the new Leeds to Liverpool route of Northern Powerhouse Rail – with stops in central Bradford, Manchester and Warrington – you have failed to fully consider the advice of independent rail reviews, the ambitions of Northern leaders, and the appeals of our businesses.”

They added: “These decisions go beyond party politics and indeed our generation. They are critical for the future of the North for the next 100 years or more.

“Given this we believe that elected representatives in all parts of the country should have an opportunity to consider whether your proposals represent a fair deal for their constituents before they are finalised.”

Conservative backbenchers from the regions impacted spoke out against the plans on Thursday – with Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, suggesting the Prime Minister had “missed opportunities” to fulfil his levelling-up pledge.

Holding a free vote could see the Government pressured into compromising on parts of the plans if ministers fear these MPs are prepared to block them in the Commons.


Labour demands MPs have a say on plans to downgrade high-speed links after ‘a betrayal of voters in the North’