An in­vest­ment in fu­ture of rail

The sig­nif­i­cance of HS2 fund­ing

Yorkshire Post - - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR -

CHAN­CEL­LOR PHILIP Ham­mond’s de­ci­sion now to make ad­di­tional fund­ing avail­able for HS2 links at Leeds Sta­tion is, at face value, a mun­dane mat­ter at the end of a po­lit­i­cally tur­bu­lent week in which his stance on Brexit – and ap­par­ent re­luc­tance to pre­pare for Bri­tain leav­ing the EU with no deal – has ex­posed the Govern­ment’s many fault-lines.

Yet, while Mr Ham­mond won’t be win­ning any pop­u­lar­ity con­tests at present from trans­port cam­paign­ers, hard­ened Brex­i­teers and those more mis­chievous mem­bers of the na­tional me­dia who have cho­sen to por­tray him as Eey­ore, the sig­nif­i­cance of this an­nounce­ment should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. By mak­ing it eas­ier to con­nect HS2 with high-speed rail ser­vices across the Pen­nines, the Chan­cel­lor is, in fact, plan­ning for the fu­ture.

Af­ter all, to­mor­row’s gen­er­a­tions will not thank to­day’s lead­ers if there’s no co-or­di­na­tion between ser­vices at Leeds Sta­tion, where eye­catch­ing plans have also been re­vealed this week for a £500m makeover com­men­su­rate with the am­bi­tion of the West York­shire city. This is why his­tory might be kinder to Mr Ham­mond than his cur­rent car­i­ca­ture sug­gests. Ef­fec­tively, it paves the way for the first sec­tion of track to be laid in time and it will en­able lead­ers to plan ahead with con­fi­dence and clar­ity.

Yet, while it’s sig­nif­i­cant that Theresa May and Jeremy Cor­byn were both cam­paign­ing in the North and ap­par­ently in elec­tion mode four months af­ter vot­ers went to the polls, there are ma­jor mis­giv­ings about the di­rec­tion, and fund­ing, of trans­port pol­icy in the North. Not only do pas­sen­gers des­per­ately need more trains, but they – and busi­ness lead­ers – want plans to upgrade links between York­shire and the North-West to be ac­cel­er­ated and not play sec­ond fid­dle to Lon­don’s de­mands. Mr Ham­mond’s Bud­get on Novem­ber 22 will be an op­por­tu­nity to set the record straight.

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