‘We need a new plan for railways in the North’ - Steve Rotheram & fellow mayors hit out at government rail plans

A number of northern mayors have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for changes to the Integrated Rail Plan.

Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram has called on the Government to reassess rail plans for the North of England amid concerns about the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).

The Labour politician has joined with fellow northern mayors Andy Burnham, Jamie Driscoll, Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis to ask the Government to open a new assessment process with Transport for the North.

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It comes as Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, is due to address leaders at a Convention of the North meeting in Liverpool today.

The mayors say the Integrated Rail Plan is a once in a century chance to get decisions right around rail and the Northern economies - but claim the current scheme “puts unacceptable limits on our ambition for this wonderful part of the world.”

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burham (left) and the metro mayor of Liverpool Steve Rotherham are among those calling for a Hillsborough Law to ‘break the cycle’ of injustice

What did the new letter say?

The letter, sent to the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Levelling Up Secretary and Transport Secretary, asks them to consider alternative proposals to the IRP amid fears it will not unlock the full economic potential from rail improvements across the North.

It states: “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 VfM assessment for both options is carried out against all five criteria, including levelling up impact.”

What has the Government said?

They have yet to issue a response to the letter today; however the Government has previously stated the IRP will deliver more quickly and be more cost-effective than prior rail plans.