'Hammer blow' or levelling up in action? Region's politicians react to new rail plans

Boris Johnson defended the revised plans while on a visit to a North Yorkshire train station. Credit: PA

Politicians from across the North East and North Yorkshire have given their reactions to the Government's revised rail plan, announced on Thursday.

Under the Department for Transport's new £96 billion 'Integrated Rail Plan' (IRP), existing plans for high speed trains in the North East have been abandoned.

Instead, the region will see newly announced improvements to existing services, including station upgrades and the installation of digital signalling.

Journeys to the North East will be faster than they are currently - but slower than estimated under the old plans.

The Government has defended IRP, with Boris Johnson calling it "the biggest investment in rail for at least 100 years".

Labour leader Keir Starmer reacted furiously, saying the "North of England has been betrayed".

But how have politicians in the region reacted?

Councillor Martin Gannon

The Labour leader of Gateshead Council also serves as Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee.

In a lengthy statement, he referred to the move as a "hammer blow for the North East" and the "very opposite of levelling up".

"I’m not quite sure what our area has done to deserve such contempt," he said.

"The Government appears to be arbitrarily ruling out major investment in the East Coast Main Line in our region, as well as confirming it won’t build HS2 to Yorkshire or the North East, and the Northern Powerhouse Rail plan seems to have been scaled back to a minor upgrade that is pretty much what was already promised – and not delivered – a decade ago.

"In the meantime we watch as taxpayers cover the costs of a new tube line and Crossrail in London, and HS2 as far as Birmingham, the East Midlands and the North West," he continued.

Bridget Phillipson

The Labour MP for Houghton & Sunderland South and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury took aim at fellow regional MP Rishi Sunak.

Rishi Sunak

But Mr Sunak, Richmond MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer, praised the new plan.

Catherine McKinnell

Speaking in the Commons, Newcastle North Labour MP @CatMcKinnell said northerners are being told "to put up with make do and mend".

She added the government has "seemingly cancelled levelling up because there are Tories on the line".

Grant Schapps responded that Ms McKinnell should welcome Newcastle-London journeys becoming 21 minutes quicker.

Under the old plans, they would have become 32 minutes quicker.

Chi Onwurah

The Labour MP for Newcastle Central and Shadow Minister, Digital, Science & Tech called the plan "another broken promise".

Andrew Jones

Also speaking in the Commons, but in defence of the Government, Conservative Harrogate and Knaresborough Conservative MP Andrew Jones said:

"No government has ever invested on this scale in British history... party opposite did nothing on this issue."

Mr Jones went on to ask Mr Schappes about timescales.

Mary Kelly Foy

The Labour MP for City of Durham said Boris Johnson's "levelling up promises fall short".

Paul Howell

In the Commons, Sedgefield Conservative Paul Howell welcomed quicker upgrades, argued for UK suppliers and called for Leamside line restoration.

Ian Mearns

Speaking in Parliament, the Labour MP for Gateshead says the North East is "missing out again" under the Tories.

Liz Twist

The Blaydon MP accused the Government of cancelling its promises in a social media post.

Peter Gibson

In an statement posted on his website, the MP for Darlington came out in favour of the plans.

 “I welcome the improvements in speed and capacity across the north on top of the other benefits Darlington is benefiting from levelling up," he said. The days of a sub 2hour journey time to London is in sight.

“There remains more to do like reopening the Leamside line and pushing our campaign to bring the Headquarters for Great British Railways to Darlington

Alex Cunningham

The Labour MP for Stockton North summed up the plans as "a lot of North getting nowt".

Kevin Hollinrake

While the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton said there was "some good news", he was critical of his own party's decision to cancel proposed new lines.

Rachel Maskell

The Labour & Co-operative MP for York Central was critical of the plans in Parliament, tweeting:

"I asked the Transport Secretary about the capacity on the Transpennine Route Upgrade now that he has cancelled the Northern Powerhouse Rail route. He told me it is all set out to show the improvements ..... apart from it is not. We need better connectivity & capacity on rail."

Sharon Hodgson

The MP for Washington and Sunderland West had this to say:

Kate Osborne

The MP for the constituency of Jarrow used the new plan as one of her reasons why one should "never trust a Tory".

Richard Holden

In Parliament, the North West Durham Conservative MP praised "major investment", asks government to keep looking into proposals for new rail lines in his constituency.

Listed above are all the MPs in the region who either spoke in Parliament, posted a statement on their website or tweeted about the new plans (retweets not included).