Autumn Budget: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt commits to 'core' Northern Powerhouse Rail plan

Jeremy Hunt stopped short of committing to a new station in Bradford.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt pledged to deliver the "core" plan for a high-speed rail line across the north of England as he gave his Autumn Budget – without recommitting to building a new station in Bradford.

The Conservatives promised to build Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) – a new line between Manchester and Hull with a new stop in Bradford – when they won the 2019 general election.

But the future of the project was thrown into doubt when it was scaled down by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year.

There was fresh hope in October when, in an interview with ITV Calendar, his successor, Liz Truss, committed to building NPR in full, including the new Bradford station.

But after Ms Truss was replaced by Rishi Sunak, Downing Street said that promise would be shelved.

Today, Jeremy Hunt gave a broad commitment to go ahead with Northern Powerhouse Rail, without setting out the detail.

He said: "Smart countries build on their long term commitments rather than discard them, so today I confirm because of this decision, we will deliver the core Northern Powerhouse Rail."

Northern leaders have long argued the case for NPR, saying investment would bring billions of pounds to the regional economy.

A new station for Bradford – one of the worst connected cities in the country – was seen as a key part of the plan.

But that element of the proposals was dropped from the government’s £98bn Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) tabled last year, with a promise to upgrade the existing network instead.

The IRP also shelved the eastern leg of the HS2 project which would have served Leeds.

The chancellor's latest announcement has been criticised by those backing the full NPR scheme.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: "Rishi Sunak told voters he would deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail in full - before abandoning it at the first opportunity.

"A lost decade of broken Tory promises has left the north with second-rate infrastructure, and rail services in crisis, holding the economy back."

She said a Labour government would deliver the project in full.

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: "The government is selling the North short by not committing to Northern Powerhouse Rail all the way across the Pennines through Bradford, as well as on to Hull by an electrified line."

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin called Mr Hunt's announcement a "u-turn".

She said: "Our common enemy should be inflation and inequality, yet Jeremy Hunt has taken aim at levelling up with his u-turn on Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, and by forcing local authorities to hike council tax to plug the blackhole in their budgets.

"Despite the chancellor’s rhetoric, record levels of inflation will have a devastating impact on public services as we enter into a recession."

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