Only quarter of officials who downgraded north’s railway plan actually live in north

Twenty-four mandarins compiled key transport report - and 18 of them were based in south

Colin Drury
Friday 31 December 2021 13:43
<p>HS2: not coming to Yorkshire </p>

HS2: not coming to Yorkshire

Only a quarter of the government officials responsible for scrapping both HS2 to Yorkshire and the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail actually live in the region, it has been revealed.

Twenty-four mandarins in the Department for Transport compiled the Integrated Rail Plan which was published to widespread disgust across the north last month.

Now, it has emerged that just six of them call the area home.

It is unclear how many of those regularly use the region’s railway system which is among the worst funded in the country: analysis suggests just £349 per person has been spent on the north’s transport infrastructure since 2010 compared with £864 per person in London.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said that the revelation showed that the decision-making process for the rail plan had been fundamentally flawed by relying on officials who did not have a natural understanding of the issues face by the region.

He said: “Relying on people based largely in Whitehall to make decisions about the north is, quite simply, the wrong answer.

“These people are not close enough to the reality of the problems that millions of people across the north face. Because they don’t experience the issues on a regular basis, they often don’t understand the detail and they certainly don’t feel the urgency for a solution.”

The government’s decision to spike both the eastern leg of high-speed London connection and the proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail which would have linked Leeds and Manchester via Bradford effectively renegaded on three years’ worth of Boris Johnson promises to deliver both.

It also meant recommendations by Transport for the North – a statutory body created to offer expertise on the region’s infrastructure – were ignored.

That organisation then had its power and funding stripped back in apparent retribution for calling the railway plan “woefully inadequate”.

Mr Murison said: “Transport for the North, led by and accountable to the northern metro mayors and civic leaders, had a plan to help close the North-South divide for good. And that plan was basically over-ruled by officials hundreds of miles away in Whitehall. That’s not right. And it’s certainly not levelling up.”

The view was echoed by Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, who said: “You don’t have to spend long travelling on the north’s fragmented, unreliable, overpriced public transport system to realise that it has been built by people who don’t live here and don’t use it,” he said.

“Transport for the North was set up to correct this and give the north a strong transport voice. It’s so frustrating that its clear, united, cross-party advice on the IRP was simply ignored.”

The figures were revealed following a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian.

The Department for Transport has been contacted for comment.

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