Tory MP Jake Berry Clashes With Boris Johnson Over Rail Promises To The North

The former minister asked whether voters were 'right to take the prime minister at his word' amid speculation key rail lines could be scrapped.
The prime minister is under pressure from his own side following reports that the integrated rail plan, due to be released tomorrow, will significantly downgrade plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail and scrap the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds.
The prime minister is under pressure from his own side following reports that the integrated rail plan, due to be released tomorrow, will significantly downgrade plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail and scrap the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds.
House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images

Boris Johnson faced anger from one of his own MPs today over reports he will renege on key rail promises he made to northern voters.

The prime minister is under pressure from his own side following reports that the integrated rail plan, due to be released tomorrow, will significantly downgrade plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail and scrap the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds.

Jake Berry, chair of the northern research group of MPs and former northern powerhouse minister, asked the prime minister during a fiery exchange whether voters were right to take him “at his word” over past promises about Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The MP for Rossendale and Darwen in Lancashire said: “In July 2019, I was in Manchester when the prime minister committed to build a new line, Northern Powerhouse Rail, between Manchester and Leeds.

“It was a firm commitment reaffirmed in our manifesto in November 2019, and last month reaffirmed in the prime minister’s conference speech in Manchester. Were the voters in the north right to take the prime minister at his word?”

Johnson replied: “Yes. He should wait and see what is unveiled tomorrow when he may learn something to his advantage.”

Johnson has faced a backlash from Red Wall MPs and regional media as speculation grows that both the eastern leg of HS2 and a new line from Manchester to Leeds will be scrapped amid fears over costs.

Northern leaders have long been suspicious that the eastern leg of HS2 could be scrapped amid fears that the cost of the entire HS2 project could balloon to around £100billion.

The uncertainty surrounding the rail commitments was also seized on by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who used the topic for his opening remarks at prime minister’s questions.

He urged Johnson to answer “yes or no” whether he would commit to building a new high speed rail line between Manchester and Leeds, dubbed “Crossrail for the north” by the prime minister.

Johnson replied: “When we produce our integrated rail plan tomorrow people across the House and across the country will see what we are doing to cut journey times, to make life easier and better for people in the north east, in the north west, in the Midlands, across the whole of the north of the country.

“And with the biggest programme of investment in rail for a century and what we are doing, is we are giving people in those communities the same access to commuter-type services that people in the south east of this country have felt entitled to for more than a century, and that is going to be levelling-up across the whole of the UK.”