Pressure builds to boost northern spending

August 8 2018  

Pressure builds to boost northern spending

Government should bring forward delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail to 2032 as part of a large scale investment in strategic transport for the north of England, a group of MPs is urging.

The Northern Powerhouse All Party Parliamentary Group issued an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for his upcoming autumn Budget to commit £100Bn to road and rail projects across the region between now and 2050.

In particular, the group of over 80 MPs and Peers urge £24Bn to be given to Northern Powerhouse Rail. They say a fast railway linking Liverpool and Manchester in the west with Leeds and Bradford in the east could create ‘economic revolutions’ and must be ready by the time High Speed 2 completes in 2032.

“We are now at a critical point,” said the group’s co-chair Kevin Hollinrake. “Bringing forward the delivery date of Northern Powerhouse Rail to the same time as HS2 arrives in the north could see the coming generation enjoy further education and job opportunities currently beyond young people today, and stimulate significant growth for the whole of the UK.”

The letter also says the autumn Budget will be a ‘timely opportunity’ to commit the necessary funds to allow Northern Powerhouse Rail and London’s Crossrail 2 to move forward ‘in lockstep’.

Transport for the North chief executive Barry White said: “Support for Northern Powerhouse Rail continues to grow by the day. It’s clearly obvious that we need to transform rail travel between our cities and major economic centres and the sooner we can do that the better.

“At the end of this year we will have submitted the strategic outline business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail and we will be looking for an early decision from the Secretary of State so we can take this important programme to the next stage of development and prepare for its delivery.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership vice chair Lord Jim O’Neill added: “Affordable and quick trains connecting all key parts of the powerhouse are vital to delivering on the goal of raising productivity both across the north, and with it, the country as a whole.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Government is committed to developing Northern Powerhouse Rail – we have given Transport for the North £60M to develop proposals for the scheme, alongside £300M to ensure HS2 can accommodate future NPR services.

“Transport for the North is currently working to produce a business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail by the end of 2018. We will continue to work with them to make that proposal as strong as possible.

“We are spending over £13Bn through to 2020 to transform transport across the North.”

The letter to the chancellor comes after think tank IPPR North published new figures showing that transport spending in London increased by 11% over the last year while in the north it fell by 3.6%.

This, it says, means that the north received £289 per head on transport, while London received £708 per head on average over the last ten years.

“These new figures lay bare the regional imbalance in our economy,” said the think tank’s senior research fellow Luke Raikes. He called for taxation and spending powers to be devolved to city mayors and bodies like Transport for the North to ensure thriving regions outside of London.

(Photo: El Pollock and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

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