Integrated rail plan: what is the government’s £96bn improvement plan, and how will it impact the HS2 route?

The Government announced a new integrated rail plan which they say will deliver improvements quicker than before - but what exactly is planned? And how does it affect the HS2 plans?

New plans for a new integrated rail plan have been announced by the government with the Tories claiming that the £96billion plan will improve existing rail routes much quicker than before.

Despite focusing on improving the existing rail lines within the UK, the new plan has brought some controversial backpedaling and changes to the HS2 plan, which has been hotly debated in the past.

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But what exactly does the new plan say? And how does it affect the HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail plans?

What is in the integrated rail plan?

Transport Secretary, Grant Schnapps, unveiled the new integrated rail plan on Thursday (18 November) saying that the £96b investment will deliver “faster and cheaper” train journeys for northern England and the Midlands.

The announcement saw scaled back promises on previously announced plans, including the HS2 line and the Northern Powerhouse Rail line.

Instead, the new plan will focus on improving existing railway lines.

What is the HS2 railway line?

HS2 is a high speed railway line which will connect London to cities in the north of England.

Plans were originally announced for the new railway line in 2009, with former Transport Secretary Justine Greening, confirming that plans were given the green light in 2012.

The HS2 railway lines are said to offer faster journey times, while also emitting 17 times less carbon than a flight and seven times less carbon than a car journey.

Phase one plans, due to be completed in 2030, will reach between London and the West Midlands, with phase 2b extending this to Manchester and Leeds.

The HS2 construction has caused controversy for many smaller villages and towns in England, who have had their homes moved and infrastructure uprooted to accommodate for the new railway lines.

How is HS2 affected by the integrated rail plan announcement?

With the new integrated rail plan announcement, the government revealed that the line would no longer be extended to Leeds, cutting off the northern city from the transport line.

Instead, the line will now stop at East Midlands Parkway.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that scrapping the Leeds leg of the railway expansion will be compensated with a transformation in existing services.

Shapps said: "Under the original scheme the HS2 track would not have reached the East Midlands and the North until the early 2040s. Clearly a rethink was needed."

Despite missing out on being guaranteed a HS2 line, Leeds will be given £100m to conduct a study to see whether the line may eventually be built.

The HS2 line will still service Sheffield, albeit with trains running on upgraded lines, not newly built infrastructure.

What is the Northern Powerhouse Rail and how is it affected?

The Northern Powerhouse Rail network was a proposed plan to help enhance the economic potential of the North of England by creating an effective transport system.

As a result of the newly announced integrated rail plans, Northern Powerhouse Rail will not get a promised new line.

Instead, it will merge with the existing Transpennine route via Huddersfield.

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