The Government is committed to the HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail plans set out in the Integrated Rail Plan, along with the full East West Rail Bedford to Cambridge route. The Chancellor confirmed the commitment to the projects in his Autumn Statement on 17 November.
Documents released with the statement said the Government ‘recommits to…transformative growth plans for our railways. These include East West Rail, core Northern Powerhouse Rail, and High Speed 2 to Manchester. These will provide fast, more reliable services and connect people to new job opportunities.’
A Treasury spokesperson confirmed to Modern Railways that HS2 and NPR would be taken forward as per the Integrated Rail Plan. Published last November, this committed to £96 billion of spending on rail projects, including HS2 Phase 2b to Manchester and a curtailed eastern leg from the West Midlands, joining the Midland main line at East Midlands Parkway. For NPR, it promised a new build line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden, joining there with an upgraded Trans-Pennine route on to Leeds and York. During her brief stint as Prime Minister, Liz Truss committed to building a full new-build NPR route, including a new station at Bradford, but her successor Rishi Sunak has reverted to the plans announced under Boris Johnson’s Government.
The first phase of East West Rail between Oxford and Milton Keynes is currently under construction, with opening planned in December 2024. The Government’s arm’s length East West Rail Company has been developing plans for the remainder of the route on to Bedford and Cambridge. The Treasury spokesperson said EWR ‘will be taken forward as the full scheme, covering Oxford, Bedford and Cambridge’. There had been fears the route may not be completed in full, with former Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggesting during his short-lived bid for leadership of the Conservative Party that he would cancel the Bedford and Cambridge stretches of EWR.