“What message does that send about the North? That we are somehow worth less than people in the South?"
Meeting at the Transport for the North annual conference in Liverpool on February 5, regional leaders called for a better approach to transport.
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that train services in the North have become poorer in the 10 years since the Northern Powerhouse was pledged. The Northern Powerhouse initiative was developed by the coalition government in 2010 – 15, aimed at boosting the local economy in the north by investing in skills, innovation, transport, and culture.
“It’s 10 years this year since George Osborne came to Manchester and promised a Northern Powerhouse. That was going to mean HS2, HS3, as it was then called, now Northern Powerhouse Rail, better everyday services on the existing network.
“You name it, we were going to be promised all of this,” said Burnham.
Citing new analysis by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) which shows rail services are poorer now than they were in 2016, Burnham said “barely any of it [the promise] has happened.”
“This general election year, I think, lands at an uncomfortable moment for a government that promised to level up because we have proof that railways have gone backwards in the decade since George Osborne made that speech.
“It’s almost unbelievable,” the Manchester Mayor continued.
Liverpool City Mayor, Steve Rotherham, echoed Burnham’s concerns. He informed the conference that he had written to the transport minister to seek guarantee that any future northern rail network would deliver the “maximum possible benefits for the whole city region.”
The mayor called for assurances that plans for a new Liverpool to Manchester line would limit disruption to Liverpool Lime Street station, which has been disrupted for several years.
The plan to extend HS2 to Manchester from the West Midlands was cancelled by Rishi Sunak in October due to rising costs. The move sparked widespread criticism, particularly in the North West, with the Prime Minister becoming embroiled in a bitter row with northern leaders.
In reference to the scrapping of the Manchester leg of the multibillion high speed rail line at the Transport Conference, Rotherham said: “What message does that send about the North? That we are somehow worth less than people in the South? That the UK is not serious about being a place to invest or do business in or that the Government simply doesn’t care that Victorian infrastructure is holding back the North?
“Maybe the Prime Minister should travel across the North on the train.”
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward