POLITICAL and business leaders across West Yorkshire appear vexed that the Leeds leg of HS2 could be paused – a Government-ordered review by former high speed rail supremo Doug Oakervee will be published next month.
They say that such a move will, despite the proposed costing of the entire scheme now rising to £100bn-plus, constitute a prima facie breach of the trust that the North placed in Boris Johnson at the election. If HS2 is scaled back, how long before the same applies to Northern Powerhouse Rail?
They’re also disconcerted that this region could face a choice of HS2 – or new rail links across the Pennines – when there’s no question of a new line being built from London to Birmingham in addition to Crossrail in the capital. After all, HS2 is shovel-ready while NPR is still on the drawing board.
Yet, while the delivery of more local rail services is a defining test of the Government and HS2 an indication of the Johnson administration’s willingness to deliver long-term projects, I’m afraid leaders here have not helped their cause in recent years. Why?
Ten years on from HS2 being proposed, they should have nailed the capacity argument – and how HS2 will mean more local services able to run at peak times. How many trains – and where? West Yorkshire Combined Authority could, and should, have been all over this.
Next Leeds City Council. This is a city – and region – on the up but where are the visionaries who can argue the case for high-speed rail, and investment, in a clear and coherent way? What are all the local authority communication directors, as well as PR and press officers, doing? Though many respect council leader Judith Blake, it should not be about one individual. It should be Team Leeds.
And then Welcome to Yorkshire. A Commons debate heard this week that HS1 was worth £1bn a year to Kent and supported over 70,000 jobs. Instead of focusing solely on its events, it needs to pull its weight, too, when it comes to campaigning for Yorkshire.
Yes, blame the Tories – and the Government – where necessary but there would not be so much doubt about HS2, and the potential knock-on effects for Northern Powerhouse Rail and so on, if politicians here had put forward more compelling, forceful and persuasive arguments instead of relying on the blame game.
HERE’S hoping Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill is successful in his quest to become the next chair of the Transport Select Committee at Parliament.
Not only is he a former Transport Minister but he is respected by politicians on all sides and is one of the few MPs to hold a HGV licence. “I love classic cars and have a 1900 London Brighton veteran as well as two traction engines and a steam wagon,” he says.
Promising not to hog the sessions from the chair, he knows the brief is a national one. But he also knows, given the extent to which TransPennine Express has let down his constiutents, that the Government’s commitments to the North are a national priority.
YOU have to hand it to Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney for trying to ingratiate himself with Ministers over the relocation of Whitehall departments and quangos to the North.
Nominating St George’s warehouse in Huddersfield, Globe Mills in Slaithwaite and Crowther Mills in Marsden as “fantastic locations”, he added: “They would also be affordable, not least because they are ideally located on the TransPennine rail route.” Has anyone told Mr McCartney that the performance of TransPennine Express is lamentable?
TALKING of TranPennine Express, there was incredulity when the firm was named as ‘Best Rail Operator’ at this week’s Business Travel Awards.
The judges had clearly not met the businesswoman from the North West who spoke so eloquently, and frankly, on national radio about how she now stays in Leeds midweek, away from her family, because late trains were having such an impact on her mental health.
And they’ll also be interested to know that TPE managing director Leo Goodwin – in response to last week’s column – has declined the invitation to meet Yorkshire entrepreneur Ajaz Ahmed at Leeds Station to discuss the concerns of passengers. Award-winning cowardice to match the absurdity of another set of ‘Buzz’ awards naming Northern as the “most improved brand”. I dread to think what failure constitutes.
NOW Theresa May is no longer Prime Minister, she is using her new freedom on the backbenches to become a great Parliamentarian. She’s certainly not afraid to intervene – not least on the issue of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
She quoted the official report in the Commons this week, noting how the response of the emergency services was not co-ordinated, as per protocol, on the night of the tragedy.
And then she revealed how combustible cladding that was not fire-resistant, coupled with the repositioning of windows during a refurbishment, exacerbated the spread of the fire. Like Hillsborough, Mrs May appears to have found her calling.
WITH less than a week to go, even Leeds City Council recognises Brexit is happening. “We’re also confident that we’re well placed to make the most of the opportunities that leaving the EU can bring,” say leader Judith Blake and chief executive Tom Riordan in a joint statement.
Perhaps they could tell those Remain-supporting MPs, like Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn, still wanting to rerun the 2016 EU referendum, they lost.