£96 billion package to transform Britain’s rail network

The ‘biggest ever’ government investment in Britain’s rail network has been announced by government today, Thursday, November 18.

Transforming connectivity, the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), will use £96 billion to transform rail journeys for the people across the North and the Midlands sometime this decade.

The original rail transformation plans – high speed two (HSE) and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) schemes – would have cost £184 billion and not entered service until the early to mid-2040s.

The IRP will transform east to west and north to south links, building three new high-speed lines, improving rail services to and between the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire and the North West, including:

  • HS2 East will run direct from central Nottingham to Birmingham in 26 minutes, down from one hour 14 minutes now, and from central Nottingham to London in 57 minutes. HS2 will also run from London to Sheffield in one hour 27 minutes;
  • Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) will connect Leeds and Manchester in 33 minutes, down from 55 minutes now;
  • HS2 West will run from London to Manchester in one hour 11 minutes and from Birmingham to Manchester in 41-51 minutes, compared to 86 minutes today.

The IRP will protect and improve ‘crucial’ links in smaller towns and will deliver improvements with far less disruption to local communities than previous plans.

It will also provide ‘tangible changes’ to both local and inter-city links, i.e. more seats, shorter journeys and more frequent, reliable services.

The IRP will also fully electrify to main diesel lines: the Midlands Main Line and the Transpennine Main Line.

The Integrated Rail Plan

Announcing the IRP, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“Levelling up has to be for everyone, not just the biggest cities.

That’s why we will transform transport links between our biggest cities and smaller towns, ensuring we improve both long-distance and vital local services and enabling people to move more freely across the country wherever they are.”

Below are the details of what the investment package confirms:

Three new high-speed lines, covering 110 miles:

  • Complete HS2 from Crewe to Manchester, with new stations at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly;
  • A new high-speed line between Birmingham and East Midlands Parkway. Trains will continue to central Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield on an upgraded and electrified Midland Main Line;
  • Delivering NPR through a new high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden in Yorkshire as in the first of the options originally put forward by TfN in 2019;
  • A study to look at the best way to take HS2 trains to Leeds, including capacity at Leeds Station.

The upgrading or electrification of three existing lines:

  • The complete electrification of the Midland Main Line from London to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield;
  • A programme of rapid upgrades to the East Coast Main Line to the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East. Journey times will be up to 25 minutes faster than now;
  • Full electrification and upgrade of the Transpennine Main Line between Manchester, Leeds and York as part of delivering the first phase of NPR, installing full digital signalling, with longer sections of three- and four-tracking to allow fast trains to overtake stopping services, and increase through passenger services by 20%. An additional £625 million in new funding has been confirmed today to progress the Transpennine Route Upgrade;
  • In total, electrification of more than 180 miles of route, meaning that 75% of the country’s main lines will be electric, to meet the ambition of removing all diesel-only trains from the network by 2040, as part of our commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050.

The freeing up of money to improve local services and integrate them properly with HS2 and NPR:

  • A new mass transit system for Leeds and West Yorkshire, righting the wrong that Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without one. There will be £200 million of immediate funding to plan the project and start building it, and we commit to supporting West Yorkshire Combined Authority over the long term to ensure that this time, it gets done;
  • Separately, we could halve journey times between Bradford and Leeds, to be as low as 12 minutes;
  • Greater connectivity benefits between the West and East Midlands in comparison to previous plan and progressing work on options to complete Midlands Rail Hub, dramatically increasing local services through central Birmingham and across the Midlands and connecting them better to HS2;
  • Investment to deliver a programme of fares, ticketing and retail reform including the roll out of contactless pay-as-you-go ticketing at commuter stations in the Midlands and North, ending ticket queues and tackling confusion about fares by automatically ensuring that you are charged the best price. The government will also drive towards rolling out digital ticketing across the whole network.