Local MP and Chair of the Transport Select Committee Huw Merriman spoke in the Transport Secretary's Statement on the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).
The IRP is the long-awaited Government plan to deliver £96bn worth of rail investments in the North and Midlands.
Huw welcomed parts of the plan that will slash journey times and better connect northern cities but raised concerns that high expectations have not been matched by delivery to all parts of the country, with the scaling-down of commitments on HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Huw Merriman MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee
The Prime Minister promised that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail were not an either/or option. Those in Leeds and Bradford might be forgiven for viewing it today as neither. That is the danger in selling perpetual sunlight and leaving it for others to explain the arrival of moonlight. On a stand-alone basis, this plan comprises some fantastic projects that will slash journey times and better connect our great northern cities, and for that the Transport team deserve much credit. My question is this: it costs us in this country £2 million to deliver a single kilometre of electrified track. The Germans can do that for less than £500,000 because they have a rolling programme of electrification. What steps has the Secretary of State taken to ensure that this new plan can be delivered to time and to this cost?
Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the improvements in journey times. For example, on Bradford, which has been talked about a great deal, it will be 12 minutes from Bradford to Leeds. What we called for, and what everyone was calling for, is London or south-east-style connectivity, and 12 minutes between two of the north’s great cities as a result of this plan is one of those potential upgrades—not potential; it is one of the upgrades in the plan.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the cost of electrification. A lot of these things seem to cost a lot more in this country. The rail Minister—the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris)—is carrying out an electrification challenge to bring the sector in and challenging it to build on electrification much faster than currently happens. Of course, in addition to electrification, we also have zero-carbon trains, electric trains and hydrogen trains such as the HydroFLEX, which will help to resolve some of the more difficult-to-electrify areas, although, as I say, we have full fat electrification on nearly 400 miles of line as a result of today’s plan.