Marianne O Sullivan’s column as seen in Journal
Connectivity is a crucial issue for the North. Whilst Boris Johnson’s recent announcement of improved rail links between Manchester and Leeds is welcome, we need the Government to commit to the full Northern Powerhouse Rail project which includes Liverpool, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle. It will help to generate an extra £100 billion for the North’s economy by 2050 and act as a catalyst for further investment in local rail services.
Recent data from IPPR North has shown that there is still a large gap in transport spending between the North and London. Since the Northern Powerhouse agenda was introduced by Government in 2014, transport spending per person has gone up twice as much in London as in the North. Only focusing on the Manchester to Leeds links after years of underinvestment in the North’s infrastructure is simply not enough.
We need both Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 in the North. HS2 will run from London to Birmingham and then to the East Midlands, Leeds, Crewe and Manchester. The HS2 lines around Leeds and Manchester will also help to create the route for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
HS2 will allow for more reliable connections from the North East to the rest of the North and the Midlands. At our transport forum last week we had Stephen Smith Senior Engagement Manager at HS2 speaking to members about the connectivity benefits HS2 will bring along with the wider economic impact the supply chain and encouraging investment in new areas.
At the forum we raised the issue of the need for increased capacity to on the East Coast Mainline to allow these HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail trains to reach the North East without reducing the frequency of crucial local services.
The North East crucially needs investment in the East Coast Mainline to resolve current capacity issues especially between Northallerton, Newcastle and Berwick. The Chamber have launched our Fast Track East Coast campaign to highlight improvements to reduce congestion and delays as well as creating capacity for more frequent services, this will make the region more accessible for businesses and for visitors.
If the Government is truly committed to the Northern Powerhouse strategy and reducing the economic performance gap between London and the rest of the UK then we will need to a major investment in the North’s rail infrastructure rather than concentrating purely on a link between Manchester and Leeds.