BORN in Bridlington before her family moved to the North West, it would have been remiss of Maria Eagle, the Shadow Transport Secretary, if she was not championing plans to build a high-speed rail network.
That she is doing so enthusiastically, and promising to work with the Government, is also encouraging – this plan, essential to the economic future of the North, will encompass the lifetime of several Parliaments and continuity of policy will be critical.
Ms Eagle’s suggestion that construction begins simultaneously in Yorkshire and London is a pragmatic way of bringing forward the dawn of a new railway era.
There is, of course, a little opportunism here – it took a year, after the election, for Labour to reaffirm its support for HS2. Now, by advocating construction in the North, it exacerbates the Government’s existing difficulties with those Ministers and MPs in the Home Counties who are opposing HS2 on environmental grounds, with Transport Secretary Justine Greening now delaying a decision until next year. Delay appears to be Ms Greening’s modus operandi; she is expected to delay, again, a decision on the proposed Leeds Trolleybus scheme, even though comparable projects elsewhere are receiving the green light.
Understandably, this is perpetuating fears that transport spending will continue to be skewed heavily in London’s favour on her watch. If that was to happen, it would make a mockery of promises by David Cameron, and Nick Clegg in Leeds last week, to use transport as a vehicle to attract new investment in Yorkshire and elsewhere.
In the meantime, the Shadow Transport Secretary will be performing a vital political service if she, and others, maintain the pressure for a swift and favourable decision on HS2. Yorkshire’s future depends on it.