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The Integrated Rail Plan – investment for connectivity growth and the environment

  • United Kingdom
  • Transport - Rail

17-12-2021

On 18 November 2021 the Government released the much anticipated “Integrated Rail Plan” report (the “IRP”), promising a £96.4 billion programme of rail infrastructure investment in the rail network in the Midlands and north of England. Planned outputs of the IRP include a range of new rail lines (including implementation of further elements of High Speed Two (“HS2”)), electrification and other infrastructure upgrades to deliver an enhanced network that will deliver radically better outputs for passenger and freight customers. The IRP is consistent with a Government rail policy focused on unlocking the social and economic benefits that rail can deliver through enhancing connectivity and the environmental benefits that it can deliver through decarbonisation and emissions reduction generally.

The IRP – key points to note

The key planned outputs of the IRP can be summarised as follows:

  • HS2 Phase 1 (London to Birmingham), Phase 2(a) (Birmingham to Crewe) and Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester) will all be built as planned. This is a £59.5 billion investment.
  • An HS2 line, designated “East”, will be built from the West Midlands to East Midlands Parkway, and will be used by trains from both London and the West Midlands. Trains will run on from East Midlands Parkway to Derby, Sheffield and Nottingham over the upgraded existing Midland Main Line (see below). This replaces the previous plan for an eastern leg of HS2 to run onwards from East Midlands Parkway to Sheffield and Leeds.
  • The Midland Main Line will be electrified from Market Harborough to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield completing the electrification of this important strategic route to the north. This will mean all three classic main lines from London to the north will be fully electrified.
  • The East Coast Main Line will be upgraded to deliver faster journey times and greater capacity. This will be achieved through infrastructure improvements (including electrification power supply enhancements and the removal of flat and level crossings) and the installation of new digital signalling that will permit 140mph running.
  • East/west connectivity between the major towns and cities east and west of the Pennines is a key priority. Work is already underway on the major Transpennine Route Upgrade and it has been confirmed that this will now involve full electrification of the route together with digital signalling and new three and four track sections of route to boost capacity for passenger and freight services at a cost of £5.4 billion. Freight services will also benefit from gauge clearance to enable larger loads to be carried. The Transpennine Route Upgrade will be the first phase of the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project. A subsequent phase is planned to see the construction of a 40 mile new high speed line between Manchester and Standedge paralleling the existing route to provide more capacity and much faster journeys.
  • The Leeds to York, and Leeds to Bradford lines will be electrified, as will the Warrington to Liverpool line infilling gaps in electrification in the network in northern England to enable more extensive and integrated electric services to be operated. Upgrade works will also be undertaken on the Manchester to Sheffield ‘Hope Valley’ line.

Some significant journey time savings will be achieved through the implementation of the IRP. In particular, Birmingham to Leeds will reduce from the current 118 minutes to 89 minutes (via NPR and based on an indicative train service), whilst Birmingham to Nottingham will drop from 74 to 26 minutes. There will also be associated frequency uplifts.

Additional IRP proposals include:

  • Options for the Midlands Rail Hub are to be progressed in order to improve connectivity in the West Midlands, with the plan to build a chord to allow more services to operate into Birmingham Moor Street gaining particular attention, in the context of the limitation on the ability to operate additional services imposed by the full utilisation of Birmingham New Street’s station capacity. There would be opportunities to improve the level of services operating to Worcester, Hereford and Cardiff. Network Rail will be working with Midlands Connect in reviewing the proposals that the IRP has considered.
  • The Government has committed to the implementation of a “Mass Transit System” in Leeds, offering the relevant local authority £100 million of funding to progress plans for either a tram, bus or tram-train system.
  • Investment is going to be put into contactless ticketing systems across the Midlands and North of England regions, with a three year roll out being planned, allowing for automatic calculation of the cheapest tickets when using the system.

The IRP has stated that the originally planned route for HS2 north of East Midlands Parkway will be safeguarded so that it remains an option for the future. Consideration is also being given to electrification of the line to Hull.

£12.8 billion has been budgeted for the HS2 ‘East’ route, Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line work, with the new east to west high speed line and associated works being allocated £17.2 billion. £1.5 billion is to be spent before 2025 on smaller rail infrastructure schemes.

Comment

The IRP is by any measure a very significant investment project, the implementation of which will transform rail connectivity between northern towns and cities, with the delivery of some benefits being significantly accelerated compared to the previous HS2 plans.

The large scale electrification that the IRP has committed to brings the advantages of faster, more reliable and more cost efficient operation of rail services with reduced emissions. The commitment to further electrification is fully in alignment with Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation Network strategy and the Government’s own Decarbonising transport plan.

The IRP will play a significant part in delivering the Government’s decarbonisation plan commitment to remove diesel-only trains by 2040.

Successful implementation of the IRP’s strategy will be facilitated by Project Speed intended to deliver large scale rail infrastructure projects more rapidly and efficiently.

The key message from the IRP is that despite the unprecedented challenges of the last two years, rail remains an industry backed by Government to deliver ever greater social, economic and environmental benefits to the nation through a programme of major rail infrastructure investment unparalleled since the nineteenth century.

The key message from the IRP is that despite the unprecedented challenges of the last two years, rail remains an industry backed by Government to deliver ever greater social, economic and environmental benefits to the nation through a programme of major rail infrastructure investment unparalleled since the nineteenth centuOn 18 November 2021 the Government released the much anticipated “Integrated Rail Plan” report (the “IRP”), promising a £96.4 billion programme of rail infrastructure investment in the rail network in the Midlands and north of England. Planned outputs of the IRP include a range of new rail lines (including implementation of further elements of High Speed Two (“HS2”)), electrification and other infrastructure upgrades to deliver an enhanced network that will deliver radically better outputs for passenger and freight customers. The IRP is consistent with a Government rail policy focused on unlocking the social and economic benefits that rail can deliver through enhancing connectivity and the environmental benefits that it can deliver through decarbonisation and emissions reduction generally.
The IRP – key points to note
The key planned outputs of the IRP can be summarised as follows:
- HS2 Phase 1 (London to Birmingham), Phase 2(a) (Birmingham to Crewe) and Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester) will all be built as planned. This is a £59.5 billion investment.
- An HS2 line, designated “East”, will be built from the West Midlands to East Midlands Parkway, and will be used by trains from both London and the West Midlands. Trains will run on from East Midlands Parkway to Derby, Sheffield and Nottingham over the upgraded existing Midland Main Line (see below). This replaces the previous plan for an eastern leg of HS2 to run onwards from East Midlands Parkway to Sheffield and Leeds.
- The Midland Main Line will be electrified from Market Harborough to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield completing the electrification of this important strategic route to the north. This will mean all three classic main lines from London to the north will be fully electrified.
- The East Coast Main Line will be upgraded to deliver faster journey times and greater capacity. This will be achieved through infrastructure improvements (including electrification power supply enhancements and the removal of flat and level crossings) and the installation of new digital signalling that will permit 140mph running.
- East/west connectivity between the major towns and cities east and west of the Pennines is a key priority. Work is already underway on the major Transpennine Route Upgrade and it has been confirmed that this will now involve full electrification of the route together with digital signalling and new three and four track sections of route to boost capacity for passenger and freight services at a cost of £5.4 billion. Freight services will also benefit from gauge clearance to enable larger loads to be carried. The Transpennine Route Upgrade will be the first phase of the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project. A subsequent phase is planned to see the construction of a 40 mile new high speed line between Manchester and Standedge paralleling the existing route to provide more capacity and much faster journeys.
- The Leeds to York, and Leeds to Bradford lines will be electrified, as will the Warrington to Liverpool line infilling gaps in electrification in the network in northern England to enable more extensive and integrated electric services to be operated. Upgrade works will also be undertaken on the Manchester to Sheffield ‘Hope Valley’ line.
Some significant journey time savings will be achieved through the implementation of the IRP. In particular, Birmingham to Leeds will reduce from the current 118 minutes to 89 minutes (via NPR and based on an indicative train service), whilst Birmingham to Nottingham will drop from 74 to 26 minutes. There will also be associated frequency uplifts.
Additional IRP proposals include:
- Options for the Midlands Rail Hub are to be progressed in order to improve connectivity in the West Midlands, with the plan to build a chord to allow more services to operate into Birmingham Moor Street gaining particular attention, in the context of the limitation on the ability to operate additional services imposed by the full utilisation of Birmingham New Street’s station capacity. There would be opportunities to improve the level of services operating to Worcester, Hereford and Cardiff. Network Rail will be working with Midlands Connect in reviewing the proposals that the IRP has considered.
- The Government has committed to the implementation of a “Mass Transit System” in Leeds, offering the relevant local authority £100 million of funding to progress plans for either a tram, bus or tram-train system. 
- Investment is going to be put into contactless ticketing systems across the Midlands and North of England regions, with a three year roll out being planned, allowing for automatic calculation of the cheapest tickets when using the system.
The IRP has stated that the originally planned route for HS2 north of East Midlands Parkway will be safeguarded so that it remains an option for the future. Consideration is also being given to electrification of the line to Hull. 
£12.8 billion has been budgeted for the HS2 ‘East’ route, Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line work, with the new east to west high speed line and associated works being allocated £17.2 billion. £1.5 billion is to be spent before 2025 on smaller rail infrastructure schemes.
Comment
The IRP is by any measure a very significant investment project, the implementation of which will transform rail connectivity between northern towns and cities, with the delivery of some benefits being significantly accelerated compared to the previous HS2 plans. 
The large scale electrification that the IRP has committed to brings the advantages of faster, more reliable and more cost efficient operation of rail services with reduced emissions. The commitment to further electrification is fully in alignment with Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation Network strategy and the Government’s own Decarbonising transport plan. 
The IRP will play a significant part in delivering the Government’s decarbonisation plan commitment to remove diesel-only trains by 2040. 
Successful implementation of the IRP’s strategy will be facilitated by Project Speed intended to deliver large scale rail infrastructure projects more rapidly and efficiently. 
The key message from the IRP is that despite the unprecedented challenges of the last two years, rail remains an industry backed by Government to deliver ever greater social, economic and environmental benefits to the nation through a programme of major rail infrastructure investment unparalleled since the nineteenth centu