These are two of the great cities of the world. Sheffield remains synonymous with steel, the industry that shaped it, while Manchester’s footballing heritage is unrivalled. Both cities are global brands separated by less than 40 miles.
Why, therefore, are local MPs having to fight a rearguard action to maintain direct rail services between Sheffield and Manchester Airport which is one of the country’s biggest gateways to Europe and beyond?
Such short-sightedness was supposed to have stopped when Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, was also given the Northern Powerhouse brief in the February 2020 reshuffle.
Yet plans for a major trans-Pennine road upgrade have been dropped; the Hope Valley Line between Sheffield and Manchester is another of the rail network’s poor relations and now the airport link is being reviewed when the Government wants to cut carbon emissions and unnecessary car journeys.
But where do the new Northern Research Group bloc of Tory MPs stand on such issues? By all accounts, they have around 60 members – sufficient to defeat the Government in Commons votes.
Their MPs do, in fairness, talk up the North – but perhaps they could now explain how and when they intend to use this leverage in Parliament and hold Ministers to account on behalf of the 15.2 million people who they purport to represent.