Northern business leaders frustrated on continued delay to IRP


More than 50 northern business leaders have written to the Prime Minister to express their “concern and frustration at the continued delay in publishing the Integrated Rail Plan”.

On the eve of a major speech from Boris Johnson on “levelling up” on Thursday, the Prime Minister was warned that any announcements on his key agenda to rebalance the economy would “carry less weight” unless the integrated rail plan (IRP) was published next week.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “The North was promised Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 both sides of the Pennines. 

“However, confusion and delay is undermining business investment.

“Wider commitments about levelling up from the Prime Minister on Thursday will carry less weight unless they are matched by action – and that means publishing the IRP as soon as possible, not waiting till the run up to the comprehensive spending review.”

The full letter reads:

Dear Prime Minister,

As business leaders in the North of England, we are writing to express our concern and frustration at the continued delay in publishing the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP). The North of England has suffered from substandard transport links and inefficient, unreliable rail networks for decades – making it considerably difficult to do business across the North and attract international investment.

In February 2020, when you committed in the House of Commons to deliver both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, and tasked the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to examine how to best integrate the two major schemes, alongside upgrades to the existing network. The NIC failed to do this; instead pitching projects against each other, and suggesting cuts to the Eastern leg of HS2. Now, the new, high-speed line between Leeds and Manchester – which you announced just three days after you took office at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester – is in doubt.

Sacrificing parts of the network of new lines now would short-change millions of people across this country who after years of waiting would be left with a second-class service. The North needs and deserves a world-class railway – North, South, East and West. Connecting the great cities and towns of the North with high-speed rail is a major building block of delivering a Northern Powerhouse and stimulating the productivity boost that would create a North as prosperous as the South, and a balanced, fair country that works for everyone. It would also connect the North to the world, through the international gateway of Manchester Airport – particularly crucial as we look to build back after the pandemic and export our world-leading sectoral expertise in areas like energy and advanced manufacturing around the globe. Establishing effective freight links across the North of England is crucially important and will lead to reduction in truck miles, carbon savings, as well as reducing congestion on the M62. As the government moves forward with establishing Freeports in England, rail freight connectivity is vital.

Critical to how high-speed rail connections can create opportunity and boost productivity is the city of Bradford. Currently it takes over an hour to get to Manchester. With the fast new line NPR would provide through the city centre, this would be 20 minutes. Connections to Leeds currently take 20 minutes, with services so unreliable that more than 70% of commuters between the cities choose to drive instead. This would be cut to seven minutes – a shuttle service between the two cities.

This connectivity would allow this modern, competitive, international city, with an integrated urban area larger than Birmingham with a labour market of over 1.3 million people and more than 600,000 jobs, to explore skilled jobs in Leeds, Manchester and further afield. And NPR would connect Bradford to the world – journeys to the North’s international gateway Manchester Airport in 30 minutes, down from one hour 40 minutes today.

Getting spades in the ground to spark the economy into life post-Covid is vital for the North of England. Building from the North, connecting Leeds to Sheffield and onto Birmingham on HS2, and Leeds, Bradford, Manchester and onto Liverpool on NPR, would create thousands of jobs in th short-term, as well as attracting billions of pounds of investment in the longer term. In the Leeds City Region alone, the arrival of high-speed rail and the new station development would generate £54bn to the economy, create 40,000 jobs and attract more than £5bn of private sector investment. Yet each year of delay costs the North & Midlands £4.9bn – growth is being held back by uncertainty.

Moreover, these delays are holding us – as Northern business leaders – back from committing further to the North and seeking to grow our companies. A connected North, where our workforce can move around from city to town efficiently and quickly, would be a hugely significant factor in encouraging us and many other organisations in the UK and around the world to embrace the North of England, with the resultant boost to our country’s economy. In business, uncertainty destroys

confidence. You have the opportunity to restore that confidence, by publishing the Integrated Rail Plan as soon as possible, and before the summer parliamentary recess. And with it, reconfirm your commitment to HS2 in full, a Northern Powerhouse Rail new line linking the city centres of Leeds, Bradford and Manchester and the upgrades to the existing network that will persuade passengers back onto the railway, freight onto the trains, removing thousands of vehicles from our roads. This is a historic moment to create a truly balanced country and to level up parts of the UK once and for all.


Debbie Francis City Executive, Arcadis

Tristia Harrison CEO, TalkTalk Group

Justin Kelly, Director Corporate Communications, Siemens

Steve Murrells, CEO, Coop Group

David Duffy, Group Chief Executive, Virgin Money UK Plc

Charlie Cornish, Chief Executive, MAG

Mark Reynolds, Group Chief Executive, Mace

Chris Oglesby, CEO, Bruntwood

Simon Bird, Director Humber, ABP

Nigel Schofield, Chairman of North Cheshire Chamber of Commerce & President of Warrington Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Sir Roger Marsh, Chair, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and Chair NP11 group of Northern LEPs

Simon Moorehead, Director, Pippa Beauty Limited

Mark Horsley, Chief Executive, Northern Gas Networks

Ian Ward Chairman, Bradford Bid & Manager, The Broadway

John Heaps, Chairman, Yorkshire Building Society

Ian Welch, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer, CallSign

Adrian Brooks, Chairman, Production Park

Andrew McFarlane, Director/Head of The Regions, Colliers International

Tony Attard, CEO, Panaz

Dr Carsten Kressel, Director, Kressel Regeneration

Elaine Clark, CEO, Rail Forum Midlands

Miranda Barker, Chief Executive, East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce

Mandy Ridyard, Director, Produmax

Annette McDonald, Deputy Managing Director, Tatton Group

Amir Hussain, CEO, Yeme Architects

Adrian Curry, CEO, Encirc

Tim Waring, CEO, Quad

Roger Scarlette-Smith, Managing Director, Thornton & Ross Stada Group

Tony Hales, Managing Director, MS3

Andy Storer, Chief Executive Officer, Nuclear AMRC

Frank Mckenna, Founder & CEO, Downtown In Business

Neville Chamberlain CBE, Chair, Cheshire Business Leaders

Andy McLaughlin, President, East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce

Justin Sherwood, Managing Director, Seriun

Mark Wigganm Managing Director, M65Jobsearch

Craig Fishwick, Director, Mayes Accountants

David Gorton, Partner PM+M

Adrian Mitchell MBE, Mitchell-Interflex

David Taylor CBE, Chairman of University of Central Lancashire

Mark Andrew Williams, Senior Channel Partnerships Manager, Western Union Business Solutions (as an individual)

Ged Ennis, Director, Low Carbon Energy

Andy & Oliver Brown, Directors, Crow Wood Leisure

Stephen Greenhalgh, Managing Director, JJO PLC

Stephen Dunn, Managing Director, North West Logistics

Paul Walsh, Local Brand Partnership Executive, Burnley Football Club

Amanda Melton CBE, Principal & Chief Executive, Nelson & Colne College Group

Warren Bennett, Director, James Places

Rachel Mcqueen, Chief Executive, Marketing Lancashire

Dr Susan Scurlock, CEO & Founder, Primary Engineer Programmes

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