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The Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands

19 November 2021

On 18 November 2021, the Government published its Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), presenting the Secretary of State for Transport's "levelling-up" proposals for the North and Midlands. The IRP confirms a major investment of £96bn for the North and Midlands, with £54bn committed to rail and local transport in the North and Midlands and £42bn committed for HS2 Phases 1 and 2a.

This is the largest rail investment and most ambitious Government programme of investment ever made in Britain's railway. 

Whilst the new plans have received some criticism for not delivering on the Government's earlier promises of a proposed HS2 line to Leeds, the IRP presents many benefits for the integrated rail network. The IRP will deliver passenger, environmental and economic benefits up to 10 years sooner than under previous plans. Under the original proposals, drawn up 11 years ago, HS2 would not have reached Leeds until the early to mid 2040s. The Secretary of State for Transport has proposed an ambitious integrated plan that focuses on improved outcomes for local, regional and long-distance transport through the full electrification, modernisation and/or upgrade of three existing lines and the delivery of three new high speed lines, as well as improved clearances for rail freight which will support the Government's decarbonisation goals. 

The IRP sets out the full details.

Summary of the main IRP benefits for the North and Midlands 

In summary, the IRP involves a mix of new high-speed lines and upgrades of existing lines which will see improved journey times, greater operational resilience and increased capacity: 

  • Building HS2 from Crewe to Manchester, with new stations at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly. 
  • Building HS2 East from the West Midlands to East Midlands Parkway. HS2 trains will continue from here directly to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield on an updated and electrified Midland Main Line. 
  • Delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) through the construction of a new high speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Yorkshire, and upgrading and electrifying the line between Leeds and Bradford. 
  • Full electrification and upgrade of the Transpennine Main Line between Manchester, Leeds and York, including installation of full digital signalling. Clearances for freight will also allow for increased freight operations removing lorries from the M62.
  • Full electrification and upgrade of the Midland Main Line between London St Pancras, the East Midlands and Sheffield. 
  • Digital signalling and upgrades to speed up the East Coast Main Line.
  • Building a new Mass Transit System for Leeds and West Yorkshire, with £200m in immediate funding, and services operational in the second half of this decade. 
  • A Midlands Hub Rail project, to transform local and regional services across the centre of England, and to link them with HS2. 
  • Installation of contactless tap-in and tap-out ticketing across the commuter networks of the Midlands and North. 
  • Completion of planned upgrades on the Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield. 

The IRP also confirms that Great British Railways, a new organisation announced by the Government in the recent Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, will, when established, take lead responsibility for delivering the recommendations of the IRP.

If you have any questions arising out of this article, please contact Rachel Crosier.

read our latest report views capturing the views of voters in the North and Midlands

Further Reading