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£300M northern rail boost 'falls short'

Philip hammond

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s promise of £400M investment in northern transport infrastructure has been welcomed by Transport for the North but has elsewhere been criticised for falling short of what the region needs.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the new investment would “only deliver benefits in the future” and said people need a “better answer” on when “sub-standard” rail services would improve, however Transport for the North said the announcement was a “significant step” for the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail. This was echoed by Liverpool City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram who said the announcement does not “redress the massive inbalance” in infrastructure spending between the north and south.

£300M will be allocated to Northern Powerhouse Rail to ensure High Speed 2 can connect to fast trains between Liverpool and Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds. The Chancellor also pledged £100M for road schemes including 10 in north-east England, 13 in north-west England and 10 in Yorkshire and Humber.

Burnham said: “I welcome this announcement by the Chancellor but it is only a first step towards providing the investment that the North needs and was promised.

“At best this investment will only deliver benefits in the future. However the travelling public in the North is having to put up with sub-standard rail services right now. Electrification across the Pennines was promised in 2011 but today the Chancellor was silent on this. People here deserve a better answer on when Manchester to Leeds services will improve.

“Today’s announcement would not have been made if the North had not got organised and found its voice over the summer. We won’t put up with clapped out trains and congested roads any longer. Until we have a clear plan for the investment required to build a Northern Powerhouse we were promised, the voice of the North will only get stronger.”

Rotherham added: ”We are still in a situation where for every £1 spent in the North £6 is spent in London and the South East.

”The Government have given an unequivocal commitment to delivering Crossrail 2 for London which is likely to cost in the region of £30bn – 100 times what the Chancellor has pledged for the North today.”

Plans to electrify the Trans-Pennine route were scrapped this summer amid outcry from northern leaders as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced support for Crossrail 2 in the south-east.

Transport for the North (TfN) research said currently less than 10,000 people in the north can access four or more of the region’s largest economic centres within an hour, but this would rise to 1.3M if Northern Powerhouse Rail is delivered.

In a statement TfN said the announcement is a “significant step” for the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail and will “enable much-needed transformational rail connections for the north to be delivered cheaper, faster and with less disruption.”

Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Lord Adonis also welcomed the investment.

He said: “Today’s funding is a welcome boost for rail connections across the North of England, helping to ensure we can make the most of the economic benefits that HS2 will bring and improving travel times for passengers.”

Speaking at this year’s Conservative conference in Manchester yesterday Hammond said: “We are committed as a government to the northern powerhouse project to join the great cities of the north into a single connected market with a population to rival London’s.”

He continued: “Today I am announcing a further investment of £300M to future proofing the rail network of the north and ensuring HS2 can link up with future northern powerhouse and midlands rail projects while keeping open all options for services through Manchester Piccadilly.”

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