News | Published December 31 2019

Northern Powerhouse rail tops Tory transport priorities, but others likely to be addressed first

During the election campaign, Boris Johnson and the Conservative party prioritised a new rail link between Manchester and Leeds with regards to transport pledges. With a majority in parliament now secure, voters in the north of England within traditional Labour heartlands will now be eagerly awaiting the implementation of this promise.

The manifesto reads: “If this Conservative Government is returned to office, we will have an infrastructure revolution for this country. Now is the time to invest in Northern Powerhouse Rail, and the Midlands Rail Hub, and so many more projects.”

Northern Powerhouse Rail, also known as HS3 or "Crossrail for the North", is intended to link Manchester and Leeds using a fast trans-pennine railway line, continuing on to other cities in Yorkshire, the North-East and the North-West.

It is a longstanding and well-documented issue that transport infrastructure is a problem in the north of England and pales in comparison to services in the capital city and wider South-East. Yet, locals will need to endure this grievance a little while longer, for the Northern Powerhouse Rail project is not expected to be completed before 2040.

The funding for the project is likely to be generated from a capital investment pot worth £100 billion, which is due to be spent over five years. As of November, only a fifth of the money had been allocated to specific projects.

According to iNews, the Conservatives confirmed ahead of the election that chancellor Sajid Javid will wait for future Budgets to determine how the remaining £78 billion would be invested. With a majority now in hand and a Budget likely to be announced soon, this will likely answer some of the questions related to funding the project.

In the meantime, the Conservatives will need to address other issues. The clearest of Conservative transport policies is the pushing forward of £2 billion funding for fixing potholes and a further £29 billion to invest in Britain’s roads, which is likely to be a policy with the future of electric vehicles in mind and a view to their proliferation in future years as the UK pushes toward its net-zero carbon target by 2050.

One issue which divides opinion is that of how to proceed with HS2. The Tories strategically avoided making a commitment for or against the project as part of its “transformative agenda of investment in infrastructure” before the election, hinting that a decision would be made thereafter.

The manifesto read: "HS2 is a great ambition, but will now cost at least £81bn and will not reach Leeds or Manchester until as late as 2040. We will consider the findings of the Oakervee review into costs and timings and work with leaders of the Midlands and the North to decide the optimal outcome.”

Now, following Conservative re-election, a decision will have to be made.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
December 31 2019

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