For too long, concrete action has not matched fine words in relation to greater investment in Northern rail links, with long-promised improvements falling by the wayside all too often.
In the past month, electrification of the Midland Main Line route between Sheffield and London, a £500m scheme promised by the Government back in 2013, has been scrapped, while Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has indicated it is now unlikely that parallel plans to electrify the trans-Pennine route between Leeds and Manchester will go ahead in full.
This has all unfolded while preparations continue for the £30bn Crossrail 2 scheme in London that will run on newly built electrified lines.
It is hardly surprising in the circumstances that almost 70,000 people, largely based in Yorkshire and the North West, have now signed a petition demanding greater transport investment for this region. Those demands include a ‘Crossrail North’ scheme to introduce a 30-minute rail link between Leeds and Manchester, as well as providing £59bn of ‘catch-up cash’ to give the north equal investment to that being made in the capital.
The petition comes ahead of this week’s Northern Transport Summit in Leeds, where political and business leaders from across the North will be gathering.
Speakers are due to include the leaders of Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle councils and the mayors of Greater Manchester and Liverpool, as well as officials from the Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and Lord Jim O’Neill, one of the key architects of the Northern Powerhouse agenda. As such, the event represents a golden opportunity for joint action that makes clear the North-South transport divide cannot continue.
A determined campaign can get the wheels in motion to force a policy rethink from the Government.