An Alternative Integrated Rail Plan – Does more for the North than the IRP and HS2 ever could

Proposal: “To deliver the regional services that the North and Midlands want rather than just getting to London more quickly!”

Method: A concentration on smaller regional projects with the emphasis on electrification and capacity can deliver more benefits more quickly than HS2 and many of its projects included in the IRP – for the same estimated costs of just over £90bn.

A list of these alternative projects and their estimated capital costs by Michael Byng is set out below.  They were selected on the same basis as the IRP claims – but does not deliver:

  • Connectivity
  • Levelling up
  • Decarbonising the railway
  • enhancing rail freight

the projects are listed in two parts:

  • What is and is not included in the IRP
  • The alternatives to the IRP which can deliver greater and earlier benefits  


The IRP is unstructured, and still concentrates on London.

But there is no money  within the £96bn budget for IRP due to the emerging, ever increasing Estimated Final Cost of the HS2 Project (Phases 1, 2A, 2B (Crewe to Manchester) and West to East Midlands of £125.52bn which leaves nothing for other IRP projects.

Due to the undue concentration of money and resources on the HS2 Project, the IRP contains little or nothing of substance to improve passenger connectivity in the Midlands and the North.

The IRP contains no measures to improve freight connectivity.

The absence in the IRP of projects with confirmed funding to develop strong electrified railways and increased capacity around our regional hubs, confirms that the IRP does not assist the levelling up process around the country.  The rail schemes in the IRP are neither integrated with HS2 nor do they interact with HS2.

The IRP selection methodology appears to be driven by commitment to the vanity HS2 Project, which benefits London primarily, with only passing regard to the needs of the North and the Midlands.

The IRP represents extremely poor value for money, reflecting the problems found by “The Oakervee Review” to justify a positive business case for the HS2 Project, which is at the centre of the IRP. The future reduction in demand for long distance rail services post Covid-19 will further reduce the business case.


Alternative Rail Schemes – Summary of Costs

The summary of the costs of alternative schemes to those described in the IRP is shown in the table below (source Michael Byng):-


Item Description Sub-total £ billions Total £ billions
01 IRP Schemes to be continued    
01.01 Northern Power House Rail – Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) base scope including full electrification (Option F) 6.15  
01.02 HS2 East Core Network (excluding HS2 Eastern leg) Midland Main Line and East Coast Main Line Upgrades 11.06  
Sub-total – IRP schemes to be completed 17.21 17.21
02 Alternative Schemes meeting IRP criteria
02.01 National schemes
02.01.01 Cross Country enhancement and electrification; Bristol, Birmingham to Derby (connecting with MML Electrification) 3.73 3.73
02.02 Northern Powerhouse Rail schemes    
02.02.01 NPR; East Coast Main Line Station Upgrades and enhancement schemes 4.26
02.02.02 NPR Manchester, Bradford and Leeds Direct Railway 9.53
02.02.03 NPR Manchester Piccadilly Underground Station 2.25
02.02.04 NPR Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Victoria Tunnel; to connect with the Manchester, Bradford Leeds Direct Railway 5.25
02.02.05 NPR Leeds Underground Station 2.55
02.02.06 NPR Leeds to Micklefield tunnelled railway 2.80
02.02.07 NPR Merseyside and Liverpool schemes 0.98
02.02.08 NPR Greater Manchester and Sheffield schemes 4.18
02.02.09 NPR Cleethorpes, Grimsby via Barnetby to Marshgate Junction, Doncaster 1.05
02.02.10 NPR Wearside and Teesside schemes 1.80
Sub-total – NPR schemes to be completed 34.65 34.65
02.03 Midlands Connect schemes
02.03.01 Midlands Connect; Birmingham Regional Electrification schemes 1.40
02.03.02 Midlands Connect; Nottingham to Grantham, Newark and Lincoln Electrification schemes 3.61
Sub-total – MC schemes to be completed 5.01 5.01
03 HS2 Phase 1 Works to be reused and incorporated into new projects
03.01 HS2 Euston Station remodelling to improve NR services; Railway Corridor between Stoneleigh and Birmingham Airport; Birmingham Curzon Station 6.74
03.02 Northolt Junction – Aynho Junction Electrification; London Euston to Old Oak Common – New Line 17.12
Sub-total – HS2 Phase 1 work repurposed 23.86 23.86
04 HS2 spent & irrevocably committed; not repurposed
04.01 HS2 previous spend – sunk costs – lost 5.88
  HS2 previous spend – sunk costs – lost 5.88 5.88
Total – IRP Alternative schemes at 4th Quarter 2019 prices 90.34


Lord Berkeley comments:  

‘These conclusions, which I fully endorse, indicate a continuing failure of ministers to understand the rail needs of the North and Midlands, where the priorities are to improve the local economies by better local services, electrification and capacity enhancements for passenger and freight services, rather than getting to London quicker’.

‘We offer these alternatives as a means of delivering what the Government says it wants in the IRP but which it does not deliver. These alternatives will cost just over £90bn compared to the £96bn in the IRP but, to remain within this figure, most of HS2 must be ‘repurposed’ to meet the IRP criteria.’


The Integrated Rail Plan, CP 490, published 14th November 2021 which you can see here 

You can download the full text of Michael Byng’s commentary on the Integrated Rail Plan here r220304 Byng 2022 03 03 IRP Review and Commentary FINAL.

You can download Michael Byng’s alternative integrated rail proposal here r220304 Alternatives IRP_

Further info  Tony Berkeley 07710 431542; [email protected]

Michael Byng 07710 456601, [email protected]