An influential former transport secretary has slammed the Government for doing “nothing” to make a new cross-Pennine railway a reality and accused the region’s strategic transport body of failing to come up with a credible plan to link the North’s cities.
Lord Adonis told The Yorkshire Post that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was hiding “behind a wall of waffle” on a potential “Crossrail for the North”.
And he urged Transport for the North (TfN), to come up with more concrete costings and route plans or risk falling behind London, which has put forward detailed proposals for Crossrail 2 in the capital.
TfN in January set out its 30-year £70bn transport vision, which includes plans for high speed rail travel across the North to deliver a half hour journey between Leeds and Manchester.
It will be submitted later this year to ministers, who are obliged to take the statutory body’s views into account.
Mr Grayling has said he is looking forward to working with TfN on the final business case.
My strong advice to the political leaders of the North of England is that they need to be camped out in Whitehall demanding a real plan to link Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Hull, before the end of the year.Lord Adonis
Lord Adonis, who quit as chair of Theresa May’s infrastructure commission in December, urged northern political leaders to “agitate” in a “very vocal” campaign so a cross-Pennine rail link gets approved by the end of the year.
He said: “Crossrail for the North needs to happen.
“Chris Grayling, my bete noire, the Transport Secretary is doing nothing about Crossrail for the North behind a wall of waffle.
“And this organisation called Transport for the North has yet to produce a half credible plan actually for building Crossrail for the North.
“And my strong advice to the political leaders of the North of England is that they need to be camped out in Whitehall demanding a real plan to link Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Hull, before the end of the year.
The Labour peer went on: “I can tell you that London, which is very good at getting its act together, has a detailed plan including costings and route proposals for Crossrail 2.
“Crossrail for the North is in nowhere near so developed a stage and has nothing like the level of Government support.”
TfN chairman John Cridland said Lord Adonis was “wrong” to say the body had no plan, pointing to the proposals published in January.
“Clear, costed proposals for the whole of the Northern Powerhouse Rail network are being finalised, ahead of the scheduled submission of the strategic outline business case by the end of this year,” he added.
Lord Adonis also called for the East Coast Main Line to be renationalised following the collapse of the Virgin and Stagecoach franchise, warning Mr Grayling that giving it back to those companies on more different terms would be “selling out the North”.
“He should do is the right thing for rail users and taxpayers in the North of England, not reward them for failure and short changing the taxpayer and giving them a new contract,” the peer said.
“If he tries to give them a new contract I will be as vocal as I can be, which is pretty vocal, on saying that this is selling out the North and it’s a disgraceful bailout of two very rich companies.”
The peer also backed calls for a Yorkshire devolution deal including a mayor or political leader “who operates at the same level as the leaders of Scotland, Wales and London”, who could then sit in an elected federal UK senate to replace the House of Lords and sit in York.
A Department for Transport spokesman highlighted £3bn of upgrades to the existing Transpennine route, as well as the scrapping of pacer trains along the line.
On the prospect of a new cross-Pennine link, he said: “We have already devolved new powers to Transport for the North, an unprecedented step to provide the certainty and confidence needed to take forward projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“We expect TfN to produce a business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail by the end of 2018 and will continue to work with them to make that proposal as strong as possible.”