Covid restrictions : Boris Johnson quizzed on wearing facemasks
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Despite the Prime Minister’s pledge to deliver the new line between Leeds and Manchester in 2019, fears are growing that the project will be downgraded amid a bid by the Treasury to save money.
According to The i, a Whitehall official believes the original £39 billion budget for the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) will be slashed to just £20 billion.
There are now concerns the project will be reduced and only include upgrades on the existing Transpennine route.
The Whitehall official told The i: “The IRP [integrated rail plan] is currently with the PM’s policy team being rewritten.
“Boris came back from holiday and was not happy with what the Treasury and Department for Transport (DfT) had come up with, which is an NPR network on a shoestring, when this is his flagship Red Wall policy.”
They said: “It’s a total mess.
“You will know who has won this battle between No 10 and 11 if NPR is in the 30s or 20s of billions of pounds when the IRP is published.”
“But to do it in full you’re probably looking at something in the £40-50bn pound range, but No 10 knows it has lost that battle with the Treasury already.”
Former transport minister Robert Goodwill said: “This is genuine investment, this is something that is going to be there for generations that we’ll be able to use and reap the rewards, in terms of better business and leisure connectivity.”
The i understands Mr Johnson has already seen a draft of the IRP but believes it will not go far enough.
Rishi Sunak’s review was set to be published next week but has now been delayed until November.
Labour’s shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon condemned the budget cuts and warned anything less that was promised would be “a betrayal of the North.”
Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton said he has already lobbied Mr Sunak to invest in NPR.
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He said: “It’s fine to try and watch every penny but you can’t mix up day-to-day spending with long-term investment, it’s an entirely different thing.
“This is a difficult time in terms of spending but I don’t think that’s a good reason to now reduce or cut back on what is much needed spending that’s making up for decades of underinvestment.
“If there’s other ways of doing the same thing that’s different but if you are basically making reductions in spending that are going to mean things like, for example, Bradford isn’t connected to Northern Powerhouse Rail, that would be a very retrograde step.
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“We’ve got to be bold and commit.”
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