Liz Truss pledges £26bn to build Northern Powerhouse Rail

Liz Truss has pledged to spend £26bn to build a high-speed rail through the Red Wall seats.

The Tory leadership candidate said she would build the Northern Powerhouse Rail in its entirety, which will be a major downgrade from Boris Johnson’s upgrade programme.

Northern Powerhouse Rail, called ‘HS3’, is a £43 billion railway running from Liverpool to Hull, extending to Toton, the East Midlands and Leeds in the north.

It was originally designed to connect with the now defunct HS2 eastern spur. Mrs Truss has ruled out backtracking on the decision to scrap the £32bn eastbound link in Leeds.

Despite its own leadership commitment to the works, the Johnson government downgraded Northern Powerhouse Rail to upgrades that would cost £17 billion.

Ms Truss’ pledge to build the program in its entirety will cost an extra £26 billion.

The Foreign Secretary told the Northern Agenda that the plan would “bring better jobs” to red wall constituencies.

“I want to build an aspirational nation that unlocks opportunity for all, no matter where you live or grow up. We need to drive business growth and investment to bring new and better jobs to the North,” he said.

“We will build the Northern Powerhouse Rail to link communities and unlock potential across the North. This is how we will bring better jobs to the North and tackle productivity.”

Ms Truss’s commitment to the rail comes despite the government claiming the works scored the lowest for “affordability and value for money”.

But internal civil service documents found it would provide “the largest increase in connectivity and capacity” of all the options considered.

Local mayors in the north of England last night published a letter backing Mrs Truss’s pledge, saying the railway was “critical to unlocking the full potential of the Northern economy in the 21st century and leveling our with the South”.

The £98 billion HS2 project was originally designed in the shape of a ‘Y’ with London at the bottom. The Leeds and Sheffield eastern spur, estimated to cost £32bn and long dubbed the project’s “sacrificial lamb” in Whitehall, was abandoned last year.

Committee chairman Huw Merriman said: “The Prime Minister promised that with Northern Powerhouse Rail he would do for the North what he did for Londoners with Crossrail. Instead, much of the track will be an upgrade of the line existing”.

Earlier this week, the Commons Transport Committee urged ministers to rethink the axing of the eastern leg of HS2.

Tory MP Huw Merriman, chair of the committee, said: “The business case for HS2 was based on going east of Leeds. Now, it stops in the East Midlands without any understanding of how much money is being saved.

“Those we spoke to from the cities of Leeds and Bradford in particular do not recognize that the finalized plans deliver on either the promises they believe were made or the Prime Minister’s stated objectives.

“For these cities, and for the taxpayer as a whole, the Government must demonstrate the reason for its decisions. An investment of this substantial amount must be based on the best evidence and the best value for money.

“It must bring the greatest overall benefit to rail services, the economy, the environment and the communities of the North and Midlands.”

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