Glossop Advertiser - - Front Page - Jen­nifer Wil­liams

THE north has united to up the ante on gov­ern­ment over its ‘out­dated, ex­pen­sive and slow’ trans­port sys­tem – de­mand­ing a clear timetable for new train links is laid out in this au­tumn’s bud­get.

Lead­ers from across the re­gion gath­ered in Leeds in the wake of a row sparked last month by trans­port sec­re­tary Chris Grayling.

He had sug­gested the en­tirety of the Manch­ester to Leeds line may not need elec­tri­fi­ca­tion af­ter all, fol­lowed swiftly by the an­nounce­ment that the £30bn Cross­rail 2 line in Lon­don has his back­ing.

In the re­sult­ing back­lash Greater Manch­ester mayor Andy Burn­ham called a sum­mit of busi­nesses and north­ern lead­ers to dis­cuss how to pres­sure the gov­ern­ment on its trans­port prom­ises.

That sum­mit is­sued a se­ries of de­mands from gov­ern­ment. They in­clude a call to hon­our all its prom­ises on north­ern up­grades, in­clud­ing full elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, track and sig­nalling up­grades on com­muter routes.

Min­is­ters are also be­ing pushed to lay out a ‘clear timetable’ in this au­tumn’s bud­get for a new east-west rail link, re­gard­less of any other com­mit­ments to ma­jor schemes such as Cross­rail 2.

And north­ern lead­ers also want a fairer dis­tri­bu­tion of trans­port funding, which – ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by the think-tank IPPR – sees Lon­don get £3,400 per head if Cross­rail 2 goes ahead, com­pared to £427 per head in the north west, although the gov­ern­ment says this does not rep­re­sent the full pic­ture.

The state­ment re­leased fol­low­ing last Wed­nes­day’s sum­mit was signed by Andy Burn­ham, Manch­ester council leader Sir Richard Leese, Sh­effield leader Julie Dore, New­cas­tle council leader Nick Forbes and Mersey­side mayor Steve Rother­ham.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing Mr Burn­ham said lead­ers had agreed to form a ‘council of the north’ to push on ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture and Brexit dis­cus­sions af­fect­ing the re­gion.

Mr Burn­ham said: “It is time now for the north to pool its po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence and show a real will­ing­ness to use it, like Lon­don, Scot­land, Wales and North­ern Ire­land have been do­ing in re­cent times.

“West­min­ster has failed the north of Eng­land but in the past we have strug­gled to speak with one clear voice on its un­fair de­ci­sions.

“If we get this right, a new ‘Council of the North’ could mark a real change to the pol­i­tics of our coun­try.”

A DfT spokesper­son said the gov­ern­ment re­mained 100 per cent com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing trans­port im­prove­ments across all areas of the coun­try. They added: “We are al­ready in­vest­ing over £13bn in the north of Eng­land’s trans­port in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing on roads and rail­ways, to de­liver faster jour­neys and in­creased ca­pac­ity.

“We are also de­vel­op­ing op­tions to de­liver dras­ti­cally im­proved jour­neys on the Transpen­nine route from 2022.

“We are com­mit­ted to North­ern Pow­er­house Rail, as set out in the man­i­festo, and that is why we have in­vested £60m for TfN to take the devel­op­ment of the scheme for­ward. There has been no change in timetable, with Trans­port for the North due to present its pro­pos­als next year.”

THE re­gion’s se­nior busi­ness lead­ers have called on the gov­ern­ment to back a ma­jor cam­paign for Cross­rail for the North.

The North­ern Pow­er­house Part­ner­ship (NPP), chaired by for­mer Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Os­borne, is call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to show ‘its con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to North­ern Pow­er­house Rail.’

Fifty busi­ness and civic lead­ers from across the north of Eng­land signed a let­ter to the gov­ern­ment de­mand­ing an in­crease in trans­port spend­ing.

Among the sig­na­to­ries are Steve Gilling­ham, director for the North, Mace, Dave New­ton, director, ARUP; Chris Oglesby, CEO, Brunt­wood; Col­lette Roche, act­ing CEO, Manch­ester Air­port; John Joyce, man­ag­ing part­ner, Ad­dle­shaw Goddard; Andy Koss, CEO, Drax Power and Clive Mem­mott, CEO of Greater Manch­ester Cham­ber of Com­merce.

The let­ter sent to Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond by the Part­ner­ship, states: “We are call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to show its con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to Cross­rail for the North in the Au­tumn Bud­get, along­side a step change in­vest­ment in the wider road and rail cor­ri­dors which link the key eco­nomic as­sets of the North. This cru­cial, panNorth­ern in­fra­struc­ture of Cross­rail for the North, the North­ern Pow­er­house’s Rail­way, would sig­nif­i­cantly cut jour­ney times, for ex­am­ple pro­vid­ing a no more than 30-minute com­mute be­tween Leeds and Manch­ester and less than 60 min­utes be­tween Leeds and New­cas­tle, and have a dra­matic im­pact on the UK econ­omy.”

An in­de­pen­dent study by think tank the In­sti­tute of Public Pol­icy Re­search North in Fe­bru­ary found that £1,943 is spent per head in Lon­don on cur­rent or planned trans­port in­fra­struc­ture projects, com­pared to an av­er­age of just £427 in the North.

The re­port’s au­thor Grace Blake­ley said at the time: “It cur­rently takes longer to travel by train from Liver­pool to Hull than from Lon­don to Paris. Build­ing bet­ter links be­tween the North’s cities will boost the na­tion’s econ­omy, driv­ing up pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

Manch­ester Pic­cadilly

●● Ge­orge Os­borne is chair of NPP

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