Scaling back northern rail projects is bad for the whole country

Levelling up can only be delivered through a full commitment to rail programmes in the north, writes Louise Gittins

Saturday 23 October 2021 17:05
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<p>‘By 2060, the rail programmes could deliver an additional 132,000 jobs and 20,000 additional businesses in the region – this is Building Back Better'</p>

‘By 2060, the rail programmes could deliver an additional 132,000 jobs and 20,000 additional businesses in the region – this is Building Back Better'

The Budget and the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) next week has been billed as a way to measure this government’s commitment to “levelling up” and “building back better” after the pandemic. But these vague and ill-defined slogans and soundbites won’t be worth the limitless bluster that has been deployed to promote them, if there is no substance to actually back them up.

The major concern for communities like mine in the north, and other members of Transport for the North, is that the reports last week of a “betrayal” for the north, if true, not only risks “levelling down” the north, but it will further unbalance our country’s economy.

Northern leaders will hold this prime minister to his words. Only this month in Manchester in his party conference speech, he was adamant that he “will do Northern Powerhouse Rail”. But doing Northern Powerhouse Rail on the cheap is not doing Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR). Given he was clear that transport is “one of the supreme leveller-uppers”, if he is committed to “levelling up” the north then he shouldn’t be shying away from a £40bn vision for NPR. And the north needs commitment to exactly that in the delayed Integrated Rail Plan now, more than ever, to secure economic recovery and to ensure that we Build Back Fairer.

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