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Northern leaders demand fairer transport deal

Words: Laura Edgar
 Transport infrastructure / iStock_000016091648

Political and business leaders from across the north of England have met to demand a fair transport deal from the government.

The meeting follows the announcement in July by transport secretary Chris Grayling that new bi-mode trains will be used on some lines instead of electrifying them.

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”.

Grayling’s announcement came at the same time that he declared his support for Crossrail 2, causing confusion and concern about the government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.

Since Grayling made the announcement, about 70,000 people have signed an Institute For Public Policy Research petition calling on the government to immediately commit to HS3 and other Northern Powerhouse rail projects as well as billions of “catch-up cash” for transport infrastructure in the north of England.

Earlier this week, former chancellor George Osborne urged Prime Minister Theresa May to commit to building high-speed rail lines across the north of England. He said HS3, which was approved when Osborne was in government, would help May to “relaunch her premiership”.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester; Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council; Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region; Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council; Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council and Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, all attended the meeting.

At the meeting, the leaders agreed that a representative body of political, business and other leaders should be set up to speak with one voice for the North.

They said the new body is needed “to bring the Northern perspective to crucial long-term issues currently being debated, such as Brexit and transport funding”.

It will also be able to make the case for further devolution of power from Westminster to the north of England.

Burnham said the event showed that “the patience of people in the north of England has run out”.

“We are getting organised and demanding the government keeps all of its promises to people here and delivers a fair funding deal for the North of England.

“We are not against our capital city developing world-class infrastructure, but it cannot be at the expense of the North. People here have put up with clapped-out trains and congested roads for long enough.

“The fact we have such strong private sector support at this event shows that this not about party politics but civic and business leaders uniting to get a fair deal for the North.”

“The government needs to show it is serious about rebalancing and revitalising our economy. We need to see clear prioritisation and a timetable for Crossrail for the North from the government as well as other vital transport improvements going ahead as soon as possible.”

Blake said: “Transforming rail connections across the North was part of the original plan to create a Northern Powerhouse and was estimated to bring £100 billion in economic growth as well as 850,000 new jobs. The people of the North are demanding a direct commitment from the government to increase investment in transport and to settle for any less would hold back the potential of the North for decades to come.”

Read more:

Analysis: Government urged to reaffirm commitment to Northern Powerhouse

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 | iStock