Rail in the North: the Day After

Here’s some of  the media coverage given to the launch of the One North report and its ‘Crossrail of the North’ project:

– BBC ‘Five cities outline £15bn One North transport plan’ – summary of the measures and a map

– Guardian ‘Trans-Pennine rail tunnel key to £15bn transport plan for northern England’ “A new trans-Pennine rail tunnel that could take 125mph trains through some of England’s most beautiful countryside is at the heart of an ambitious £15bn plan to improve transport networks in the north of England. The brand-new route, modelled on the Channel tunnel, would cut journey times by half.

Travelling  between Manchester and Leeds or Sheffield would take just half an hour, with links to ports in Hull and Liverpool and the region’s airports vastly improved. The idea is for the trains to carry freight as well as passengers, with new, purpose-designed terminals so that the trans-Pennine corridor can offer a drive-on facility for lorries, like the Channel tunnel.”

– the Times concentrated on the political aspects of the moment: “The Chancellor of the Exchequer lent his support to [the One North] investment scheme … and said the north could generate an extra £44 billion by 2030 if its economy caught up with the rest of the UK. … There is a huge gulf in the public resources provided to English regions. London receives more than 20 times the spending on infrastructure that the north east gets, some estimates say.

Figures from the IPPR show that spending on transport infrastructure in the government’s national infrastructure plan is £5,312 per person in London, but £420 per person in the northwest and only £157 per person in the north east. It also found that 80% of the projects in the 20-year national infrastructure plan in London were up and running, compared with less than 60% [?] in the north. Mr Osborne is leading a concerted attempt by the Conservatives to boost their standing in the north. Some evidence suggests that the Tories are starting to repair their disastrous poll ratings in the region.”
+ detailed graphic of the possible schemes

– whilst the Daily Mail reported on his interview with Evan Davis: “He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that governments should not have to choose between investing in the north or the south of the country. ‘I hope we don’t have to make a choice between the two,’ he said. ‘I think the real choice in our country is actually spending money on this big economic infrastructure, trans-Pennine rail links, Crossrail 2 in London and the like, and spending money on, for example, welfare payments which are not generating either a real economic return and at the same time, are trapping people in poverty.’

– the FT however was more pessimistic Funding doubts cast shadow on £15bn push for northern revival “But although the One North report received broad support from chancellor George Osborne and the opposition Labour party, infrastructure experts questioned how the £15bn projects over 15 years would be funded. They also said the plan raised serious questions over the balance of spending between Whitehall and the regions. … Jon Hart, infrastructure partner at Pinsent Mason, said: “At the risk of repeating the same old, same old, where is the funding coming from for this?” He added that the planning process could be lengthy, particularly for the proposed Trans-Pennine rail route, which passes through an area of outstanding natural beauty and could raise concerns on a par with those being seen over HS2 in the Chilterns. … Despite this, business warmed to the idea. Michael Luger, director of the centre for infrastructure development at University of Manchester, said: “The politics are substantial; it’s about creating a political force in the north. It would make it so much more attractive for businesses to locate in the north if they could draw from this wider skills pool of Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.”

– the Huddersfield Examiner observed some more local political differences: “But Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman was not in agreement with Colne Valley Conservative MP Jason McCartney over the proposals, which he says will happen too slowly, causing severe damage to Northern economies: “A lot of my constituents will say this plan will take too long and I need to look into it more to see if it is a pie in the sky proposal that will come too little, too slow. .. I have been campaigning for first rate travel in the north for years and it is essential that we work as fast as we can to put a transport plan in place to invigorate the North and its economy- it doesn’t have to be complex. … Money from the HS2 project could be a lot better spent by concentrating on this northern bid, which should be the country’s priority. …

Colne Valley Conservative MP, Jason McCartney, who is a member of the Transport Select Committee and campaigned for the Northern Hub Rail investment, was less critical of the plan. He said: “It’s another big step in the right direction and there are many considerations to face to re-invigorate the economy and ease congestion for commuters. I think there’s a massive combined effort to improve the system on the back of the £1billion growth deal for Yorkshire, which needs this programme to make the most of our economies.

– Finally the WY Combined Authority put the project in comparative geographic context: ‘Responding to One North’s publication West Yorkshire Combined Authority Chair Cllr Peter Box said, “As the report sets out, the North of England has a population of 15 million, is larger than London and almost as big as the Netherlands but its economy is not achieving on that scale and this is partly due to a legacy of Government under-investment that means our transport network has not kept pace with growth in our economy and our workforce.”