IMPROVING road and rail links in the north is “absolutely fundamental to the future of the country” David Cameron has said.
The Prime Minister has said he is determined to improve rail links in the three northern regions, and even vowed to get rid of the ageing and unloved Pacer trains used reluctantly by thousands of Yorkshire commuters every day.
Mr Cameron said northern infrastructure would rightly be seen as one of the key ways in which the Conservative record in the North should be judged.
The party recently committed itself to reducing the North-South divide in the next parliament, an economic gap Labour found almost impossible to close during 13 years in office.
Mr Cameron said: “The work that the Chancellor and I are doing improving infrastructure in the North is absolutely fundamental to the future of the country. We really do believe in rebalancing the economy, and that will only happen with mayor transport improvement.
“High Speed 2 is key to that but HS3 is equally important. Linking together the strongest cities in the North of England to create a powerhouse, to create a counter-point to London is I think very important.”
He added: “In terms of Northern Rail I understand the concerns about the franchise. We all want to see Pacers go, and bidders for the Northern franchise will be required to propose plans for the removal of Pacers when they submit their bids in 2015. Those trains are going, there will be a progressive upgrade of trains right across the system.”
This week Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the clunky diesel Pacer trains, which consist of a bus body mounted on a freight wagon chassis, would be unacceptable in the South, and promised to back efforts to phase them out.
But there was a warning from the PM yesterday that such improvements will come at a cost “everyone has to share.”
Mr Cameron said: “Northern Rail is the most heavily subsidised train company and you have to get a fair balance for these improvements. Every one has to play their part.”
Mr Cameron was speaking as new figures showed the amount expected to be pulled out of income tax payments.
Since the coalition Government raised the personal allowance some 266,000 people have been taken out of paying the tax altogether, and a new £12,500 target will see another 262,000 people in Yorkshire and Humber out of the tax.
The Prime Minister said he believed there was a moral case for tax breaks, not just an economic one, including in the North.
Mr Cameron said: “This is important economically, it is right that Britain is a low tax economy to make us more competitive.
“But more importantly there is a moral case for this, the British people have worked very hard to get us out of recession, to get things moving again.
“I think it is right to give people more of their hard-earned money rather than government taking it away and spending it on their behalf.”
Mr Cameron also revealed another target - to stop letting shadow chancellor Ed Balls get to him.
The PM is frequently taunted by Mr Balls during his weekly questions session in the Commons.
“I don’t know why I let him get to me,” Mr Cameron said. “He is just so annoying. Privately I have had a civilised conversation with him once or twice. But in the House of Commons he knows he annoys me so he keeps doing it.”