Statement from the Mayor of West Yorkshire about the Integrated Rail Plan

Today’s announcement is a betrayal of the Government’s levelling up promise. It does not support the Northern leaders’ ambitions for a stronger, fairer and better-connected North that meets the challenge of the climate emergency.

Today’s announcement is a betrayal of the Government’s levelling up promise. It does not support the Northern leaders’ ambitions for a stronger, fairer and better-connected North that meets the challenge of the climate emergency.

Delivering HS2 in full to Leeds and a new high-speed rail line across the Pennines, with a crucial city-centre stop in Bradford, would have been the economic shot-in-the-arm our region desperately needed. It would have turbo-charged the whole of the UK economy in a post Brexit age.

Today, the Government has not listened to Northern voices and instead brought forward their own plans that mean HS2 stops short of Yorkshire, and the new high speed from Manchester line stops at its border.

We are told this is one of the single biggest acts of levelling up of any Government in history. Yet, Government is still working out how to connect Leeds, after a decade of work. And today’s announcement leaves the great city of Bradford on a branch line to the national network.

That is not levelling up. Instead of new lines built for the 21st century, we’re being offered a 20th century upgrade to existing infrastructure.

Passengers in the North could face another decade of uncertainty and disruption as upgrades impact our existing services and create uncertainty for investors. This is not the Crossrail of the North.

The Government suggests that these improvements will be delivered quicker than the plans the North had proposed. Yet still thinks it needs another new study to get high speed trains to Leeds - how much longer will that take and is the last ten years not long enough?

The news about the Transpennine upgrade is welcome. But commitments to electrify the Transpennine route date back to 2011, and it is unclear from today’s document what exactly will be delivered and when. Likewise Midland Mainline electrification, announced again today, was committed in 2012 and then cancelled in July 2017.

I also welcome the support for our plans for a mass transit system for West Yorkshire. But we have been here before, with one government committing to the project, only for future ones to overturn it. Our region needs a long-term, multi-parliament commitment that will deliver on this promise. And mass transit is a not a substitute for an integrated rail network and nor will it take freight off our busy roads.

Integrated transport should make people’s lives easier, boosting their life choices and aspirations. People across the North were excited by the opportunities these rail links would bring. And as West Yorkshire works towards net zero carbon emissions by 2038, I expected this investment to be a major weapon in our fight against climate change.

So I will work doubly hard to achieve economic growth, levelling up and carbon reduction. I know that the improvements that NPR and HS2 would have delivered will be needed in the future. I will continue to make the case for a truly connected North.

I will not let this hold us back. We have an internationally significant economy with output of £55.4 billion – bigger than 9 EU countries and 2.3 million people, there is endless potential for our economy to grow and I will not let this dull the aspirations and ambition of West Yorkshire.

Our people, our communities and our businesses need and deserve so much more.