Yorkshire MP Alec Shelbrooke calls for rail freight system between Hull and Liverpool like Germany's Rhine river

A freight rail transport system across the North to move goods between Liverpool and Hull could do for the region what the River Rhine does for commerce in central Europe and Germany, according to a Yorkshire MP.

Conservative Alec Shelbrooke told a Westminster Hall debate the "transformational" idea would allow freight to be brought into Hull from Europe and then taken by train to Liverpool where it could be exported off around the rest of the world.

Improving east-west connections is thought to be one of the keys to boosting the economy of the North, with firms like power generation company Drax wanting to ship its fuel sources from Liverpool over to Hull.

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Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke

Elmet and Rothwell MP Mr Shelbrooke told the debate on infrastructure in the North this week that there was value in long-term projects like HS2 alongside smaller shorter projects.

He added: "In the North of England we are lucky in our maritime position, with the port of Hull and the port of Liverpool. If the globe were tilted to give the relevant perspective, it would show that that corridor is more linked into mainland Europe than the other corridors are.

"Germany has been able to adapt its economy regularly as the world has changed and moved forward, and the one fundamental truth about where and why that happens is the River Rhine. It is a huge transport link, and a lot of engineering work has been done to link it to other rivers.

"Of course, we do not have that between Liverpool and Hull. The canal system was built, but that is not what I am talking about. We need to look at a fundamental freight rail transport system that is akin to what the River Rhine does for commerce in central Europe and Germany. That is there to be built on.

"On that route, we could build inland freeports, to which the railway freight would be brought from, say, Hull, having come out of Europe. With value-added engineering in tax-free freeports, it would go back on the railway, over to the port of Liverpool and off round the rest of the world—or vice versa, coming back the other way.

"We must think in the short, medium and long term, but the long-term projects, which will cost a huge amount of money, need to be really transformational and to put the country in a place that we have not been in before.

"Is that blue-sky thinking? Is it dreaming? Maybe, but it has to be the ambition. That would go a long way, through infrastructure, towards levelling up the north of England."

Responding to the suggestion, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said it was "optimistic", but added: "I respect the intent and energy behind it."