Ten rail projects and some local transport schemes were highlighted as Government priorities in the Government’s Growth Plan 2022, unveiled by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng on 23 September.
An appendix to the Growth Plan document, published alongside the Chancellor’s statement, lists a series of ‘infrastructure projects which will be accelerated as fast as possible, aiming to get the vast majority starting construction by the end of 2023’. The document says the projects ‘may benefit from acceleration through planning reform, regulatory reform, improved processes or other options to speed up their development and construction, including through development consent processes’. Such planning reforms were stated as a Government priority within the main plan.
Rail projects listed include the Transpennine Route Upgrade, East West Rail, Midland Main Line Phase 3 (electrification from Wigston to Nottingham/Sheffield) and Northern Powerhouse Rail. Also listed are Manchester Improvements (schemes to improve reliability on central Manchester’s rail network), Leeds Station Enhancement and the Northumberland line project to reinstate passenger services from Newcastle to Ashington. Three station schemes are listed – Cambridge South, and White Rose and Thorpe Park (both in West Yorkshire). The document does not offer further detail about the scope or intent with regard to any of these schemes.
In the local transport section, projects listed include the Independently Powered EMU for Merseyrail to enable network expansion, renewal of Sheffield’s Supertram network, the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension of the West Midlands Metro and the West Yorkshire Mass Transit proposal based on Leeds. Also included as projects at Middlesbrough and Darlington stations and plans to restore passenger services to Aldridge on the Sutton Park freight line in the West Midlands.
The Plan also signals the Government’s intent to introduce legislation to reduce the impact of industrial action, specifically by putting in place Minimum Service Levels for transport services. The document says the Government ‘is taking action to make it easier to settle industrial disputes by ensuring meaningful employer pay offers are put to employees’. This may at least in part be a response to the RMT union’s refusal to put a pay offer from Network Rail to its members earlier this year.