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Clegg unveils infrastructure package for the North

Words: Laura Edgar

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has announced measures to electrify rail routes in the North after describing the infrastructure as “decrepit.”

The package of measures, announced today as part of the Northern Futures project, aims to upgrade and electrify rail networks between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield by 2025. Additionally, Clegg would like to see cross-Pennine links between Liverpool and Manchester on one side and Leeds Sheffield, Hull and Liverpool on the other. As a result, journey times would be reduced by up to 40 minutes.

The Deputy Prime Minister explained: “One of the key things that comes up time and again is the need for better transport links – electrification for the rail networks connecting Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, renovation of the dilapidated commuter lines. That is why I am pushing for a huge programme of transport improvements in the North to begin immediately.

“London and the South-East has had billions of transport investment over recent years from HS1 to Crossrail to the Northern Line extension. The perfectly reasonable requests I have been hearing from the North are basics that are needed if we are to create a true economic hub in the north of England.”

As talks on the Autumn Statement continue, one of Clegg’s key priorities is to negotiate funding for improvements to the North’s transport infrastructure while at the same time acknowledging that the lines that are not electrified will also need improving. “I want significant improvement – government money to buy better rolling stock to improve commuter routes in the North – also by 2025.

“Ancient rolling stock and lines that have not been upgraded in 30 years are not fit for a 21st century metropolis. Decrepit trains such as the Pacers, which are literally ancient buses on rails, are not a fair way for people in the North to get to and from work. They would not be deemed acceptable on London commuter lines, and they are not acceptable in the North.”

The Liberal Democrat leader has emphasised that it is not only about improving rail links; 64 per cent of journeys in the North are made by road and Clegg therefore intends to push to see these improvements included in the upcoming Road Investment Strategy.

Stephen Litherland, speaking to The Planner in his role as chair of RTPI North-East, said: “We welcome Nick Clegg's announcement to improve road and rail links in the North. If the north of England is to compete with the major cities in the South, improved infrastructure and faster connections between the major northern cities is essential.

“Following the government's support for the HS3 initiative last week, it now looks like the principle of the ‘northern powerhouse’ is gathering political momentum and we look forward to seeing more details in the near future.”