UK: Transport for the North has ‘reluctantly’ agreed to delay the submission of its Outline Business Case for Northern Powerhouse Rail, at the request of the Secretary of State for Transport.

The Department for Transport has indicated that submission of the OBC should follow the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and northern England, which will consider the best way to deliver HS2 north of Birmingham, Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Midlands Rail Hub plus a number of major Network Rail projects. This was due to have been published by the end of 2020 but has since been delayed.

TfN anticipates that the deferral of the OBC could be between three and six months, depending on the impact of IRP and its recommendations over the scope and funding for the projects and resulting train service specifications.

National framework

TfN operates within a national policy framework managed through DfT for which the Secretary of State for Transport is responsible to parliament. The Transport Secretary is accountable for the development, adoption and amendment of policies affecting Northern Powerhouse Rail, and so it would be difficult for TfN to refuse his request as this could put funding and even the future role of TfN in jeopardy.

Map of proposed junctions between High Speed 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail routes.

Map of proposed junctions between High Speed 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail routes.

The Strategic Outline Case which aims to agree a single preferred network for Northern Powerhouse Rail is on track for submission to government in March. TfN notes that it ‘updates and further strengthens the case for NPR whilst significantly narrowing down the options to be taken forward’.

Following the recent publication of the National Infrastructure Commission’s Rail Needs Assessment, TfN wrote to the Secretary of State setting out the board’s initial views on its preferred way forward for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

It argued strongly for government to ‘fully recommit to HS2, NPR and other major northern schemes, placing rail investment right at the heart of an ambitious vision to level up opportunity, decarbonise transport and act as a catalyst for growth’. It reminded DfT that its members ‘have been clear about the need to consider NPR and HS2 as a single integrated network — the cornerstone of a 25-year programme to transform the north of England’s rail network to deliver our economic and environmental objectives.’