North West Mayors ask Government to re-think rail strategy

Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham
GM Metro Mayor Andy Burnham and LCR Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram Credit: PA

Metro Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram are demanding a re-think on rail plans, after the Manchester to Leeds link was downgraded.

Last month, the Government published a “Technical Annex” for the Integrated Rail Plan which stated the levelling up impact should be assessed.

Later on in the document it stated "Given the early stage of development of the options under consideration…it has not been possible to fully assess their impacts on the wider economy.”

HS2 still some time to go Credit: PA

Now, Mayors Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, Jamie Driscoll, Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis have written a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Levelling Up Secretary and Transport Secretary challenging the Government to open a new assessment process with Transport for the North.

This process would openly assess both the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan and the rail plan put forward by Northern Leaders to see which would achieve the greater impact in Ministers’ central mission - levelling up the country.

The Mayors’ call comes on the day that Northern Leaders are set to meet for the third Convention of the North, in Liverpool. Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove will address the Convention following the publication of the Government’s long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper.

HS2 leg scrapped in November Credit: PA

The letter from Northern Mayors to the Government:

“We find it strange to say the very least that the IRP, the Government’s flagship levelling up policy, has not been fully assessed for its levelling up impact. Surely the Government would want to ensure that any major investment of public money achieved greatest impact on its central mission?

"For this reason, we do not believe that the current IRP should be the final word on rail infrastructure for the North. But, in the spirit of making progress, we wish to put a positive proposal to the Government.

“Before going any further, we would ask that the Government commit to establishing an open, bi-lateral value for money assessment process, involving Transport for the North (TfN), looking at two options: the current IRP and the full Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme put forward by TfN.

"To make a meaningful comparison, it is essential that a full value for money assessment for both options is carried out against all five criteria, including levelling up impact.

"The magnitude of the decision on rail investment in the North of England cannot be overstated. It will have a determinative impact on our economy and society for more than 100 years.

"If we didn’t press for the best possible solution, we would be letting down future generations of Northerners. We cannot but conclude the current plan puts unacceptable limits on our ambition for this wonderful part of the world.

“We know that Crossrail will soon open in London. We do not for one moment begrudge our Capital city this new east-west line and the huge economic benefits it will bring. We simply ask for the same for the North of England.”

Yours sincerely

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater ManchesterSteve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City RegionTracy Brabin, Mayor of West YorkshireJamie Driscoll, North of Tyne MayorDan Jarvis, Mayor of South Yorkshire