YP Comment: George Osborne’s tunnel vision over transport

George Osborne should not develop tunnel vision over transport policy.

George Osborne should not develop tunnel vision over transport policy.

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EVEN if the economic case could be proven, environmental considerations mean it is unrealistic to expect the M65 to be extended from Colne, a gateway town on the Yorkshire and Lancashire border, to Keighley.

However Simon Cooke, the Tory leader on Bradford Council who proposed the extension at a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, should be commended for being prepared to think the unthinkable when it comes to making this region’s creaking road and rail network more resilient.

Transport improvements from the Lancashire border to the heart of West Yorkshire might not appeal to George Osborne when he is looking for ‘big ticket’ projects to include in his Budgets to mask all kinds of misery, but they have the potential to improve accessibility to an area in need of investment.

And this objective – improving the prospects for people living in areas not blessed with 21st century transport infrastructure – should not be lost as the Government looks to build its way out of political, and economic trouble with schemes that become even grander, and more ambitious, with each Budget.

In addition to high-speed rail, the Chancellor is exploring the practicality of building a £6bn road tunnel under the Pennines as part of plans to improve connections between Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester.

However Mr Osborne, who has a reputation for over-promising and under-delivering, needs to remember that commissioning one feasibility study is not the same as giving the project the green light. Furthermore, he should not become fixated with building the longest road tunnel in Europe – Yorkshire and the North might, in fact, be far better served if this £6bn was spent on several less glamorous schemes which had the potential to be far more beneficial than one vanity project.

This will only happen if local politicians follow Greater Manchester’s example and devise innovative plans that have such a compelling business case that the Chancellor has to approve them. This, rather than tunnel vision on Mr Osborne’s part, should be the future direction of travel.

Security struggles: Theresa May must make EU case

THE LABOUR backbencher Dan Jarvis is not the first politician to conclude that Britain’s national security could be compromised if the country votes to leave the European Union on June 23. Theresa May, who became the longest serving Home Secretary since Henry Matthews in 1892 when she recently overtook Rab Butler’s 2,007 day stint under Harold Macmillan, has come to the same conclusion after spending nearly six years grappling with counter-terrorism, immigration and asylum policy on a daily basis.

She must have very good reason to do so – such a stance is at odds with her noted Euroscepticism prior to entering the Home Office and is unlikely to endear her with the Tory faithful ahead of the election to choose David Cameron’s successor – but it is slightly disappointing that she has opted to keep her thoughts to herself rather than take the debate to opponents like David Davis, the former Shadow Home Secretary and Haltemprice and Howden MP.

If the Remain campaign is to prevail, it needs to 
come up with positive reasons for people to endorse this country’s membership of the EU rather than relying upon Downing Street’s Project Fear. Given the duty to protect its citizens is the number one responsibility of any government, perhaps Mrs May can be persuaded to make her case, and sooner rather than later, so it can be considered by all those bemoaning the lack of clarity thus far.

A Bird’s eye view: The dawn of a sporting summmer

WITH this weekend hopefully being the precursor to a scintillating summer of sport, the legendary umpire Dickie Bird can be given for having divided loyalties tomorrow.

As he takes his seat in the Royal Box at Wembley to watch his beloved Barnsley line up in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, England’s cricketers – including a strong Yorkshire contingent – will be playing the West Indies in the world Twenty20 final.

For many, choosing which game to watch will be a tough call but the irrepressible Bird, 82 years young and still a faithful follower of both football and cricket, is counting on acquaintances to keep him informed of the score from Kolkata.

And, like many, he sees no reason why both Barnsley and England can’t win and begin a summer to rival the Olympic year of 2012 when Yorkshire competitors ruled the world. Let’s hope so.

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