Trans-Pennine rail pledge is welcome but five years late – The Yorkshire Post says

IT was significant that Grant Shapps preceded the announcement about the £317m upgrade to the trans-Pennine railway between York, Leeds and Manchester by confirming what has been self-evident here for years – this line would have been a national priority if it was in the South East.

the Government has promised to upgrade rail services between York, Leeds and Manchester.

This is the second time in as many weeks that the Transport Secretary has made such an admission – he made similar comments a week ago when pressed about the infrequency of services in Pontefract, Castleford and surrounding towns as he launched his new rail reforms.

Yet the Minister’s candour also explains the size of the Government’s task when it comes to rebuilding trust here – and why passengers will view the pledge with scepticism until they begin to benefit from the promised improvements.

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After all, David Cameron and George Osborne both put the electrification of the trans-Pennine line at the heart of the Tory party’s 2015 election manifesto as they made countless visits to this region to court the commuter vote.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

It was the same in 2017 – Mr Cameron’s successor Theresa May and her Ministers made similar undertakings when, in fact, Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, had already made the decision to cancel the upgrade.

As such, the onus is on Mr Shapps to now ensure that this project, and rolling out of hybrid trains along the route, is the national priority that it should always have been – and that he, as Northern Powerhouse Minister, also brings his influence to bear on the wider levelling-up agenda which still appears to be heading for the same buffers that afflicted trans-Pennine rail in the past.

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