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Analysis: Government urged to reaffirm commitment to Northern Powerhouse

Words: Laura Edgar

Leaders of cities and regions in the north of England have called on the government to clarify whether it remains committed to the Northern Powerhouse and Transport for the North.

Mayors and council leaders representing Greater Manchester, Manchester, Liverpool City-Region, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle have issued a joint statement about transport infrastructure investment following infrastructure announcements by the government.

In 2015, the Department for Transport said a number of lines, including the line between Liverpool, through Manchester, Leeds and York, to Newcastle, would be electrified.

Yet last week, transport secretary Chris Grayling said in a ministerial statement said new bi-mode trains offer “seamless transfer” from diesel power to electric while the industry is developing alternative fuel trains, using battery and hydrogen power.

This means “we no longer need to electrify every line to achieve the same significant improvements to journeys, and we will only electrify line where it deliver genuine benefit to passengers”.

These technologies will be deployed on the Great Western Main Line in South Wales, the Midland Main Line and on the Lakes Line between Windermere and Oxenholme, “instead of carrying out disruptive electrification works along the whole of these routes”.

The parliamentary statement will, The Guardian reported, cast doubts over the electrification of the TranPennine route and other lines in the North. Improving connectivity in the North has been seen as an important part of the Northern Powerhouse.

On Monday (24 July), The Planner reported that Grayling said he is a “supporter” or Crossrail 2, with him and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan agreeing London needs new infrastructure to support its growth. The two want to see how the infrastructure project could fund itself during construction, said a joint statement.

Now, mayors and council leaders in the north of England have said recent statements by Grayling are “unexpected and have caused confusion and concern”.

“They have created considerable uncertainty about government promises already given for developments on the TransPennine services.”

Statements have raised fears over the government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse rail, the future of the Northern Powerhouse itself and the government’s aim to rebalance the economy, said leaders.

“If the government can't be trusted to stick to promises already given, then it is hard to have confidence that they will deliver longer-term agreements made to the North.

“The government urgently needs to clarify its position on both short-term and long-term commitments to the North and confirm if it remains committed to the Northern Powerhouse and Transport for the North.”

The leaders, who have agreed to meet in August, before the return of Parliament, have called on the government “to return to working constructively with us to correct long-term imbalances in transport funding and to give the people of the North the rail services they deserve and have been promised”.

The statement was released by:

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Sir Richard Leese, leader, Manchester City Council

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City-Region

Judith Blake, leader, Leeds City Council

Julie Dore, leader, Sheffield City Council

Joyce McCarty, deputy leader, Newcastle City Council

Read more:

Chris Grayling ministerial statement

TransPennine and Midland Mainline electrification works to resume

Northern Powerhouse hit by rail modernisation delays

£38 billion of rail network improvements announced

Electrification for Lake District route

Clegg unveils infrastructure package for the North

Grayling backs Crossrail 2

Image credit | Shutterstock