It’s not without significance that on the day Hull North MP Diana Johnson leads a backbench debate in the House of Commons on transport investment in the North, a new report highlights the region’s growing trade and tourism links with China.
Diana Johnson: 'North is left with worst of all worlds over transport'
According to the study, the value of exports from the North of England to China is now worth £200m a month – up a staggering 265 per cent.
This dramatic rise is largely down to the creation of direct flights between Beijing and Manchester Airport fuelling an influx of Chinese students to Northern universities and sparking greater inward investment.
It has helped establish Manchester as the gateway to the North for China. Crucially, though, the report’s authors say the findings strengthen the case for large-scale investment in infrastructure projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would dramatically improve journey times between the North’s major towns and cities and Manchester Airport, and in turn help attract new long-haul connections.
It shows why this evening’s MPs’ debate focusing on the trans-Pennine route, which has become little more than a glorified branch line, is so important.
The role of Yorkshire’s cities is crucial in all this and the eye-catching CGI images of how a remodelled Leeds City Station could look are certainly impressive.
So, too, are the plans to transform the station into a state-of-the art hub befitting a leading European city in the 21st century.
However, while it’s all very well building the equivalent of a gleaming new King’s Cross station here in Yorkshire, the question is will it have the trains to match?