After Grant Shapps presented the long-awaited IRP to parliament, Quadrant Transport analyses what was included and what it means for connecting communities in the North.
The partial scrapping of the HS2 Eastern leg grabbed all the headlines today and is by far the most disappointing aspect of the IRP. It is viewed across the industry as the best way to level up the North, build communities and decarbonise the transport sector.
Despite this, there was still a lot included within the plan. Here are the key five funding pledges:
Firstly, the highly anticipated NPR and Trans-Pennine upgrade will get £23 billion to deliver better connectivity between Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds. While this is a significant amount of money, it was expected to be nearly double to deliver NPR effectively.
Electrification is still on the cards for the North
Within this, 180 miles of the line will be electrified along the route. Electrification has often overrun and gone over budget. This will give the industry a platform to deliver electrification effectively.
If it can be delivered on time and within budget, then there will be further calls for a rolling programme of electrification across England. To help achieve this, £625 million has been given to the electrification from the North West, through to Yorkshire.
The biggest hindrance to the increase of rail passenger numbers is the cost to travel on the network. The UK has some of the highest fees in Europe and has been facing calls to control ticket pricing for years.
Will the North finally get a rail reform?
Grant Shapps announced a £360 million budget for a rail fare reform which make buying tickets cheaper. Grant Shapps told the commons that “It will impact 700 urban stations across the UK, improving the ease and affordability of travelling on the network.”
On top of this, £2 billion has been given to improve micro-mobility around train stations. This includes improving cycling and walking infrastructure around train stations.
Attributed as another barrier to rail travel is issues around ‘the first and last mile’ of a passenger’s journey. This funding will scale up bike and scooter hire stations across the UK and improve cycling lanes.
Essential signalling repairs set for the ECML
Along the ECML, there will be digital signalling improvements covering a total of 400 miles. This will reduce amounts of delays on the network.
However, this is just the renewing of the existing kit that has needed repair for years, rather than building new infrastructure and signalling networks. A theme that runs throughout the IRP with many of the announcements rehashed pledges or simply re-announcements.
The overall plan will cost £96 billion seems an eye-watering amount of money. Despite this, the disappointment surrounding the IRP remains high. Northern leaders across the region would prefer the money for new lines rather than just upgrading existing lines.
The IRP has been framed around the ‘levelling up’ agenda. However, funding per person in the North compared to the South shows that there are still gaps in investment in the North. Since 2010 the South has had an investment of £864 per person compared to the much lower £349 in the North. This is according to research by the Institute for Public Policy Research.