What is Northern Powerhouse Rail? Train project explained, what have Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss said about it

It is thought that the two Conservative leader candidates will be asked about the railway plans during hustings

The race for the new Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party continues as Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are set to take part in their first hustings.

The hustings event, which takes place tonight, (Thursday 28 July), in Leeds, will be the first of 12 which will take place during the leadership battle.

Sunak and Truss are expected to be asked further about their thoughts on the Northern Powerhouse Rail after Truss confirmed she’d deliver the plans in full while Sunak has stopped short of promising to bring it back after it was scrapped by Boris Johnson.

But, just what is the Northern Powerhouse Rail, what have both Sunak and Truss said about it, and also what are hustings and when will all the events take place?

Here’s everything you need to know.

The two Tory leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are expected to be asked further about their thoughts on the Northern Powerhouse Rail.

What is Northern Powerhouse Rail?

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), which is sometimes referred to unofficially as High Speed 3, is a proposed major rail programme which was designed to enhance the economic potential of the North of England.

It was intended to improve rail connections between Liverpool and Leeds.

In November, the Government sparked a backlash from northern leaders when it revealed that a new line would only be built on one section, with the rest of the route getting enhancements to existing lines.

The Government decided that instead of carrying out the plans in full they would build a 40-mile line between Warrington and Marsden, and complete the upgrade of the Transpennine Route.

In the Integrated Rail Plan, it said the original plan would cost £18bn more but would only cut journeys from Manchester to Leeds by just four minutes.

The plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

What has Rishi Sunak said about Northern Powerhouse Rail?

The former Chancellor has not promised to bring back the plan, but it is widely believed that he was in support of the scaling-back of plans for what was a flagship transport project last year.

Sunak has however said he agrees with the findings of a recent Transport Committee report, which said the Government should look again at its plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail, as delivering the project in full may "represent the best potential value".

He said he will "commit to engage with the local leaders in the North on delivering NPR" and "figure out the case for delivering a new station in Bradford".

He added: "I want to progress options to get HS2 two trains to Leeds as fast as possible and I’ve already committed the funding (£100m) to explore that further."

What has Liz Truss said about Northern Powerhouse Rail?

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs has declared she is “completely committed” to building NPR and has said she wants “really fantastic rail services” in the North.

The Conservative Party leadership candidate was speaking to reporters in Leeds, West Yorkshire, when she made the announcement that she would tear up the Government’s scaled-back plans if she becomes our next Prime Minister.

She added that she knows “how poor the transport is” in the city.

Truss has agreed to revert to the original plans for the network, which would see services run on new high-speed lines from Liverpool to Leeds, via Manchester and Bradford.

She  said the project is “absolutely crucial for the future of the North of England”, but she did not commit to reverting to the old plans for HS2.

How have northern leaders said about Northern Powerhouse Rail?

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a network of business and civic leaders, said: “The outgoing Prime Minister broke his promises to the North when he published the Integrated Rail Plan.

“This would bring back government support for the original Northern Powerhouse vision of a single travel-to-work area across the Pennines, driving up productivity to secure growth for UK plc.

“Whoever becomes the next prime minister should build the new line from Manchester, connecting the airport, through to Bradford, with services across to Leeds.”

What are hustings?

Hustings are to take place around the country throughout the summer to help party members make their choice of who they want to be the new Conservative leader.

Hustings are organised by the Conservative party across the UK Tory members, who will then put questions to the candidates during the events.

When do the hustings take place?

The pair will participate in 12 hustings organised by the party across the UK Tory members, will put questions to the candidate during the hustings.

The dates and venues are:

  • 28 July: Leeds
  • August 1: Exeter
  • August 3: Cardiff
  • August 5: Eastbourne
  • August 9: Darlington
  • August 11: Cheltenham
  • August 16: Perth
  • August 17: Northern Ireland
  • August 19: Manchester
  • August 23: Birmingham
  • August 25: Norwich
  • August 31: London

All of the hustings events will be streamed online.