The Government has appointed a minister to ‘keep a firm grip’ on the delivery of the controversial HS2 line – along with the £39 billion Northern Powerhouse Rail project.

Andrew Stephenson, the MP for Pendle in Lancashire, has been given the new role which has been created by Prime Minister Boris Johnson following his decision to back HS2 amid calls for the project to be scaled back in light of spiralling costs.

Mr Stephenson – who has previously served as a Foreign Office minister and as a Government Whip – vowed to work with HS2 Ltd and partners across the Midlands and the North to ‘deliver vital connections, spread prosperity and level up this country’.

On both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – which aims to connect major cities across the North – Mr Stephenson said it was ‘essential we keep a firm grip on these vital projects’.

HS2 has been beset with controversy, with some estimating the project could cost up to £106 billion – almost double its original budget of £56bn.

And environment groups have warned of the ‘devastating’ impact it could throughout its route from London to Birmingham, and onwards to Manchester and Leeds.

On giving the project the green light last week, Mr Johnson said HS2 Ltd would not be involved in delivering the line past Birmingham and that new delivery arrangements would be put in place for the Northern section to ‘restore discipline’ and avoid any ‘further blowouts’.

Strong calls continue to be made by business leaders and politicians in Cumbria for the line to be delivered to Glasgow, as initially intended, using the existing West Coast Mainline.

And equally strong demands have been made for a stop at Carlisle to help boost Cumbria’s economy.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership has been lobbying hard for a stop in the city, and also for Northern Powerhouse Rail, which its director Henri Murison believes will help create additional connections and capacity in the county even though the line will not venture north of Manchester.

On Mr Stephenson’s appointment, he said: “It is fitting that a Northern MP has been chosen to take on this vital role looking at how the two major projects can integrate fully for the maximum benefit of the North.

“The High Speed North project is a major opportunity to fundamentally rebalance the UK economy, creating a North as prosperous as the South, and our business and civic leaders are eager to engage with Government on how this project can create business growth and skilled jobs for young people across the North and the whole of the UK.”