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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has indicated that a major £ 100 billion reconsideration of the £ 100bn railway line between London and the North of England is being considered, saying ministers could no longer follow a blueprint dating back to the last Labor government.
Ministers are soon expected to delay on the eastern leg of HS2 between Birmingham and Leeds, with the preference for an east-west railway scheme between Leeds and Manchester called Northern Powerhouse Rail and nicknamed HS3.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Shapps Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub, a scheme to improve east-west links in the region and provide access to HS2 in Birmingham.
“Midlands Rail Hub and Northern Powerhouse Rail are things, it was invented, it was not when HS2 was first designed,” he said. “We have to work these things together. Do we do things in the best way and in the right order? ”
The Treasury wants to scale down the HS2 line, which connects London with Birmingham, before dividing it into two divisions. The western leg to Manchester will be built, but the eastern part of Leeds is in jeopardy as there are concerns that the cost could exceed £ 40 billion.
Shapps said ministers should ‘go back and ask further questions’ after a report by the National Infrastructure Commission, a government advisory body, proposed last year that the Leeds leg be delayed in favor of the priority of rail links between cities in the North of England and the Midlands.
Boris Johnson is expected to argue that Northern Powerhouse Rail is a faster way to get trains to Leeds via Manchester than HS2, which should only be completed in 2040.
One minister told the FT that the government ‘Equalization’ calendar To curb local inequalities, it would be better to connect northern cities than to spend £ 40 billion on the eastern part of HS2. Shapps will be drafting a new integrated rail plan in the coming weeks.
Asked if the eastern leg of HS2 would be cut off, Shapps said: ‘We want to make sure we get trains to Leeds in a way that really benefits people in the network and does not blindly follow a plan that 15 to 20 invented years ago, which no longer benefits people. ”
Meanwhile, the Secretary of Transportation will launch a competition among railway towns on Monday to become the headquarters of Great British Railways, a new state-run body that will oversee trains from 2023 onwards.
He said: ‘We are looking for it outside London in a place with rail history and connections. . . I’m sure York and Crewe and other well-known railroad towns will want to bid for it. ”
Great British Railways will replace Network Rail as the body responsible for rail infrastructure, and supervises the award of contracts to private train operators.
Shapps said he did not know how many people would work in the new headquarters, but revealed that he had entered into a logo for the organization: it would embrace the famous “double arrows” British Rail symbol, but with a Union – flag background.
He hopes Great British Railways will transform the network by changing the industry culture so that customers enjoy priority, reduce costs and get the best out of the private sector.
The body will collect revenue, set up timetables and tariffs, and be charged from a road to a net zero railway line. Shapps wants Great British Railways to scrap repeated announcements about the civil service on trains, which he said made passengers crazy.
The transport secretary insists that the railways are falling back after the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic and that “the days of enormous subsidies, the £ 12 billion to £ 13 billion in 2020-21, have come to an end”. He said passenger numbers were at about 60 percent of pre-Covid levels.
Shapps has been busy with the past few days the fuel crisis and the shortage of drivers of heavy trucks, but he said “the economy will get it right” and that the transportation industry is making a vital adjustment to higher wages.
“I actually think the higher salaries are very welcome,” he added, adding that it was’ crazy ‘that the transport industry was supported by taxpayers’ support through the universal credit facility benefit that increases the wages driven by cheaper foreign workers.
Shapps said he did not think of the 5,000 short-term visas offered by the government to foreign truck drivers “Will be the thing that saves the situation”. Instead, higher wages and better working conditions were the answer. “I do not want to interrupt the system again,” he added.
Meanwhile, aviation, another sector plagued by the pandemic, was optimistic that workers placed on the government’s leave plan would work again.
He said travel restrictions would be lifted, with fewer Covid-19 tests and more countries come off the government’s red travel list. “We are seeing some businesses begin to actively rethink,” he added.