Rail Needs Assessment for the Midlands and the North   |   Study

Rail Needs Assessment for the Midlands and the North: Final report

The final report of the Commission's study.

Published: Updated:

Rail has the potential to contribute to economic transformation in the Midlands and the North. But to give it the best chance of doing so, rail investment must be concentrated and at scale, and form part of a wider economic strategy including skills, development and urban transport. Government should use an adaptive approach and commit to an affordable, deliverable, fully costed pipeline of core investments to improve rail in the Midlands and the North. If further funding is available there could then be options to either enhance these schemes or add further schemes later.

To support government’s decision, the Commission has developed a menu of options for a programme of rail investments in the Midlands and the North, using three different illustrative budget options (baseline, plus 25 per cent and plus 50 per cent):

  • focussing on upgrades (baseline budget only)
  • prioritising regional links
  • prioritising long distance links.

The package focussing on upgrades is unlikely to be sufficient to support levelling up. Prioritising regional links appears to have the highest potential economic benefits overall for cities in the Midlands and the North and would improve many of the currently poorest services.

Even in the ‘plus 50 per cent’ budget, there is not enough money for all the proposed major rail schemes in the Midlands and the North, which total up to £185 billion.i While there is an argument for increasing the budget to plus 50 per cent, government would need to balance this against spend on other important aspects of economic infrastructure. The packages in the ‘plus 50 per cent’ budget have higher potential benefits, but higher risks. This level of investment would be a strategic bet.

As part of an adaptive approach, the government could sensibly begin by committing to a core set of programmes. If further funding is available, government could add additional schemes, or enhance existing schemes if:

  • the core pipeline is delivering on time and to budget
  • the costs and benefits of additional schemes are well developed
  • complementary investments are being made that increase the likelihood of major rail investments delivering benefits.

Government should also consider ways of accelerating the benefits of the Plan to deliver benefits faster for passengers in the North and Midlands.

Manchester Piccadilly station

Status:  Completed

Rail Needs Assessment for the Midlands and the North

A study to inform the government's Integrated Rail Plan.

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