Rail in the North
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling pledges to deliver an improved rail system that “the North can be proud of”.
SECRETARY of State for Transport Chris Grayling has pledged to deliver a vastly improved rail system that “the North can be proud of”, following decades of economic neglect.
Speaking in Manchester on November 15, he apologised for the disruption suffered by passengers on the Northern network following May’s timetable meltdown, while conceding that the Government was “playing catch up” to improve performance and the standard of service for passengers.
He pointed to a sustained package of transport investment that (according to the Infrastructure and Projects Authority) will result in capital investment per head for the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber rising to a higher level in the next three years than for London and the South East.
This includes existing commitments to spend £3 billion on the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade to improve journey times between Manchester, Leeds and York, £337 million on a new fleet of Metro trains in the North East, and £3bn of northern road improvements.
Grayling said: “This is an exciting time, and we have already announced the biggest ever funding package for northern transport. Don’t let anyone claim that transport in this part of the world is underfunded.
“I know lots of people are still sceptical about the prospects for better transport, and I completely get why. The worst of the summer is behind us, but passengers in the North are still enduring poor performance on many routes.
“That’s why the Government has launched a fundamental review of the industry to recommend significant reforms, and we’re working with franchises to ensure passengers are properly compensated.
“But the bigger picture here is that we are playing catch-up. In 2010 we didn’t just inherit an economy on its knees, we also inherited a transport network that had been in decline for decades - particularly in the North. What we’re doing now is making up for those decades of neglect.”
The Transport Secretary also reiterated the Government’s support for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), which he stressed were both needed in order to improve connectivity not just on congested routes from north to south, but from east to west.
In October 29’s budget announcement, £37 million was allocated to develop the business case for NPR, while Grayling’s comments on HS2 will be welcomed by supporters of the £56bn project, after the Sunday Telegraph reported a quote from him on November 3 saying that Phase 2b of the line “was not in the bag”.
Grayling said: “Our commitment to HS2, the full network to Manchester and Leeds, remains undiminished. Rather than talk HS2 down, we want to see this enthusiasm spread across the North.
“In fact, there are strong reasons why HS2 should actually pave the way for NPR, and why the case for NPR is bolstered by HS2.
“The last time we built new rail links to the centres of our great Northern cities, Queen Victoria was still on the throne. We don’t get these opportunities often and we need to take advantage of them while we can.
“This is a time of real opportunity, so let’s be ambitious for transport in the North. Let’s work together towards a shared vision for the future, and let’s build an enduring transport legacy that the North can be proud of.”
Northern 170475 passes the former station at Masborough, in Rotherham, on October 20, on its way from refurbishment at Crewe to Neville Hill following its transfer from ScotRail, as a TransPennine Express Class 185 passes with a Manchester AirportCleethorpes train. The station closed in October 1988.