NEWSPAPER reports published on November 14 claim that Britain’s long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) will suggest that the new High Speed 2 line will not be built in its entirety.
The Sunday Times reported that the British government plans to axe the line from Lichfield - Leeds via the East Midlands, which is around 160km, and instead build two shorter sections between Leeds and Sheffield and Birmingham - East Midlands Parkway (16km south of Nottingham). This would leave a gap between the two new HSR lines of around 80km.
The Mail on Sunday reports that Leeds will receive a light rail system instead of the direct HS2 line.
Publication of IRP, rumoured to be on November 18, is expected to give clarity on various schemes including HS2 beyond Birmingham and Crewe, Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), the Midlands Rail Hub, major projects including the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade and various electrification scheme that would help Britain hit its net-zero emissions targets by 2050.
IRP was due to be published by December 31 2020 but has been delayed with various ministers and chancellor of the exchequer Mr Rishi Sunak claiming it would be published “soon.” British prime minister Mr Boris Johnson has spoken of the need to “level up” the economy and back in February 2020 he committed to building “a rapid connection from the West Midlands to the northern powerhouse, to Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds.”
Smaller electrification schemes have been suggested in the reports including an already-announced £78m scheme between Wigan and Bolton.
NRP was due to be a mixture of new and upgraded lines across the Pennines between Manchester and Leeds with a new station at Bradford, although details regarding its full scope have never been formally announced. The cost has been estimated at around £40bn with hope that construction work would start in the first half of this decade.
“With the IRP overdue, rail suppliers are in real need of visibility of upcoming work,” a Railway Industry Association spokesperson told IRJ. “We need to know the status of major projects like HS2’s Eastern Leg, NPR, Midlands Rail Hub and others if we are to deliver successfully to time and budget and to provide the full benefits of these schemes to UK plc.”
A Department for Transport spokesman told IRJ that the reports were speculation, and it would not be commenting.