YP Comment: 2016 must be a year of delivery on transport

IT goes without saying that there need to be better road and rail links between the great cities of the North if this region is to start punching above its weight in a 21st century global economy.

Improved links to Hull docks are key to the region's future prosperity.

National, regional and local politicians accept this. Business leaders concur. And now the Institution of Civil Engineers has made a compelling economic argument to the National Infrastructure Commission.

Two of its key conclusions are worth repeating. First, the ICE estimates that the North will be £6.7bn a year better off if train times between Leeds and Manchester are reduced by 20 minutes – further evidence that the electrification of the TransPennine route, back on track following a successful campaign by The Yorkshire Post, must include plans to increase the number of services operating at peak times between West Yorkshire and the North West.

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Second, the ICE points out that there is huge potential for manufacturers to export goods if there are improved connections to the ports at Hull, Grimsby and Immingham. This is important – the needs of industry are key to Yorkshire’s future prosperity and are just as important as measures to make day-to-day commuting slightly more tolerable.

Yet the challenge is the same – how to accelerate these long-overdue improvements when transport spending is skewed so heavily in favour of London and the South; when so much time and money is being spent on HS2; when this country has a lamentable record on infrastructure and when this region’s political leaders cannot reach a consensus on devolution. And, despite a clear correlation between economic growth and transport investment, Yorkshire will, regrettably, remain stuck in the slow lane unless this report succeeds where others have failed and 2016 becomes a year of delivery.

Doctors’ orders

IT should not have come to this. After months of soul-searching, junior doctors have begun their first strike action today for 40 years, following a breakdown of talks with the Government over changes to their shift patterns and working arrangements.

A depressing day for the NHS, and one which will cause great angst to those patients whose treatment could be disrupted as a result, both the Government and the British Medical Association could, and should, have handled the dispute more diplomatically.

After all, both are committed to the same objective – providing the best possible round-the-clock care for patients and making sure that there is never a repeat of those scandals which have so besmirched the reputation of the NHS.

Given this, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt should have attempted to reach a broader consensus on the circumstances when doctors should be entitled to premium pay for working unsocial hours – this dispute has the hallmarks of a politician who does not fully understand the medical profession’s day-to-day pressures.

On the contrary, there is a growing belief that the BMA has been spoiling for this fight – Boris Johnson is among those to suggest that the organisation is “in the grip of advanced Corbynitis” and does not accept the fact that the NHS needs to change if it is to be fit for purpose in the 21st century.

As such, the only remedy is for both sides to return to the negotiating table and build on the considerable areas of agreement which make this strike so unnecessary. Patients have a right to expect nothing less from NHS leaders.

David Bowie was a star was the ages

THERE are few cultural figures who can genuinely claim to have changed people’s lives, but David Bowie is arguably one of them.

Not only was he the most charismatic performer of his generation, he was also one of the most influential. If Bob Dylan and The Beatles were the spokesmen of their generation, then Bowie was for the one that followed. In a career spanning more than four decades, the musician and songwriter pushed back the boundaries of what a rock star could be.

Bowie set trends rather than followed them. In the early 70s his flamboyant alter ego Ziggy Stardust captured the imagination of teenagers across the country who flocked to the barbers to get their own “Ziggy” haircut.

He was a cultural hero of his age, refusing to conform to convention, preferring instead to follow his own star. He leaves behind a legacy of great songs and as long as there are people walking the earth, his name, and the brilliant music he produced, will live on.