ANDREA LEADSOM, the Leader of the House of Commons, is symptomatic of those Cabinet ministers who think they can appease this region by simply uttering the words ‘Northern Powerhouse’.
Yet, when she tried this tactic in response to questions from Yorkshire MPs Judith Cummins and Diana Johnson, the Cabinet minister’s patronising tone exposed the Government’s limitations.
More than six months after the introduction of calamitous changes to the timetable, passengers on trans-Pennine services simply want their train to run on time as reliability and punctuality continues to deteriorate. This is the short-term priority.
Next, they want specific details about how Ministers intend to upgrade the main railway between Leeds and Manchester which remains a relic of the Victorian era. A medium-term objective, myriad broken promises by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling have led to a breakdown of trust.
Finally, the long-term ambition is a railway line to rival Crossrail – minus the cost over-runs and construction delays afflicting the flagship scheme in London – so there is capacity for sufficient passenger and freight trains to run to meet this region’s economic needs.
Though these are all separate objectives, they are each fundamental to the future of this line and the Rail Freight Group’s misgivings about the Government’s approach, and its failure to meet the needs of wider industry, do not bode well.
If the amount of vehicles, and lorries, on the region’s roads is to be curtailed, the Department for Transport need to be planning ahead now rather than paying lip service to the North and thinking, like Ms Leadsom, that it is job done. It is not, hence the need for full financial and policy-making powers to be transferred to Transport for the North so this region can take back control of investment before it is too late.