“Yorkshire and Lancashire join forces to demand Government delivers on northern transport”

[from the Yorkshire Post, Wednesday 23 August 2017]

Political leaders from both sides of the Pennines called for the North to join forces to make sure the Government delivers its promises on transport improvements today.

A transport summit in Leeds heard calls for the creation of a Council of the North to balance the lobbying power of London and the devolved nations

The event also called for a major overhaul of the way the Government decides which transport schemes to fund to ensure the process is fairer to areas outside London. Business and council leaders met in Leeds in response to a series of Government announcements which appeared to downgrade its transport commitments to the North.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “We’ve done so much research, we’ve done so much thinking, what we have to do is make sure from now on we speak with one voice, one North, and really getting out there and making the case for the step change in investment in the North that we need.” She said transport improvements were the key to achieving the North’s economic ambitions. “You would not be having these conversations in the South-East,” she said.

Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham, a cabinet minister in the last Labour government, told the summit the country was “inherently London-centric” but Brexit was an opportunity for change.

“We have to get ourselves organised so it is as easy for the Government to speak to the North of England as it is to speak to the London business community,”

he said. Mr Burnham said his experience as a Treasury minister was that the system is “rigged” in favour of the capital because of the way major transport schemes and their potential economic impact are analysed by government officials. He called for a “social weighting” to be included in the process so areas which already have strong economies do not enjoy an unfair advantage.

Greater Manchester’s mayor said the extra money secured for Northern Ireland by Unionist MPs in return for supporting the Conservatives showed how political pressure could be exerted on the Government.

“I think we’ve got to, yes, have a respectful conversation with the Government but at the same time show our political steel and bring MPs together across the North from all political parties and ask them to start organising in Parliament,”

he said.

In a letter to Mr Burnham on the morning of the conference.Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the current government was the first “for decades to make Northern infrastructure a priority”. He claimed frequently quoted figures showing the gulf in transport spending between the North and London were “flawed” and “inaccurate”. IPPR North, the thinktank behind the figures, stood by their analysis. In his letter, Mr Grayling defended his suggestion that using trains which can run on both diesal and electric power could be an alternative to electrifying the entire length of the trans-Pennine route between Manchester and Leeds.

“I want the best possible improvements for passenger journeys as soon as possible,” he said.

Writing in The Yorkshire Post yesterday, Mr Grayling said:

“I’m hugely excited about the prospects for transport in the north of England. “Tremendous opportunities are opening up to connect the major Northern cities with modern new links, and deliver the extra capacity to tackle congestion and overcrowding. “But ultimately, it is not up to central government to grasp these opportunities.”


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Trans-Pennine Electrification in Doubt

On the last day before the parliamentary recess, the Transport Minister Chris Grayling sneaked out the announcement that various electrification schemes would be cancelled, in the North West (the Windermere branch), in Wales (Cardiff to Swansea) and in the East Midlands( Midland Main Line, from Kettering north to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield).

The following day he gave a press interview indicating that electrification of our route would probably also be cancelled or at the very least scaled back (once a report is published in Autumn). Our resident cynic thinks this will also be sneaked out on a busy news day in the hope that no-one notices or that the inevitable furore is diminished.

The project to electrify the entire train line between Manchester and Leeds could be cancelled because it is “too hard”, according to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

He said it was too difficult to run electric pylons along the whole line between the two cities, and that bi-modal trains could instead operate with diesel engines on part of the network.

 “We don’t need to electrify all of every route. There are places that are built in Victorian times where it is very difficult to put up electric cables,”

Mr Grayling said on a visit to Manchester, according to the Financial Times.

“If there are bits of the TransPennine network that are complicated to do and we have a bi-mode train, we can say: ‘Here is a section we can have a diesel.’ We will be electrifying TransPennine but we can do it in a smarter way.”

Once again, the minister explained his decision by saying that the introduction of new bi-mode trains means that electrification was not needed, since the units could travel on parts of the existing network on diesel as well as on the electrified sections.

In a move guaranteed to make northern passengers even more betrayed, the minister announced his full backing for the second Crossrail project in London, projected to cost £30bn. Although he thought this price too high, he committed to working with the mayor of London to enable the scheme.

While it is true that technology has moved on in recent years and the bi-mode trains appear to be more reliable than first thought, this move can only be seen as a betrayal of the north to allow the south to have the full benefit of electrification.

The trains are heavier and more expensive because they run on two differing methods of fuelling, electric motors fed from the overhead power supply and a tank of diesel to power a series of small on-board engines throughout the train. These provide power for the electric motors driving the wheels.

Later reports suggest that the government announcement was issued prematurely and that the minister had not said that the Transpennine electrification was in doubt.

It is disingenuous of the government to say that the overhead wiring spoils the countryside as the pollutants which will be spewed out by the diesel engines of the bi-mode trains will have more impact on people’s lives than the look of a few gantries and wires.

It is a clear betrayal of years of promises that finally the north would get the rail network it deserved has been placed in doubt.

Then the following day Mr Grayling stated his support for London’s Crossrail 2, a project costing may times more than Trans Pennine electrification and one that directly benefits his Surrey constituency. Insert cynical comment here about the DfT and the minister cutting back projects in the North because they don’t know or care about it, whilst spending ever more on London and the south east.

In fact here’s a comment from someone with years of experience within the railway industry, someone who really knows what they are talking about.

“Not electrifying between Manchester to Leeds on an otherwise electrified route between Liverpool to Edinburgh is not smart.

“Dual mode trains need the additional weight of diesel engines distributed through the train, so sub optimising performance and fuel efficiency over the much longer electric sections.

“Mr Grayling may not be aware of the Pennines between Manchester and Leeds. This is the section where performance is needed most. This is not smart.”

Ian Brown CBE FCILT, Railfuture Policy Director


This has implications for us. Electrification, although not sufficient in itself, was one of the key actions necessary to enable us to have the half-hourly service that we have been campaigning for.

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“Transport secretary’s backing for Crossrail 2 sparks anger outside London”

[from the Guardian, Monday 24 July 2017]


Chris Grayling’s support for rail line prompts claims government has abandoned ambitions to rebalance economy

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has declared his support for Crossrail 2, alleviating fears in London that the project could be shelved but sparking anger outside the capital after he announced last week that rail electrification schemes would be cut elsewhere.

Grayling’s call for a fresh public consultation on Crossrail 2, a new commuter rail line running north-south across the capital, was greeted with relief by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, who said the project was “essential for the future prosperity” of the capital. But outside the M25 there were claims that the government had abandoned ambitions to rebalance the

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said:

“It won’t escape people’s notice that this commitment to London today comes just days after the transport secretary cancelled electrification schemes all over the country. It raises the question of whether taxpayers everywhere else outside of London are paying to make Crossrail 2 viable.”

The Liverpool City region mayor, Steve Rotheram, said that while he did not “begrudge” the investment in London and the south-east, there needed to be balanced spending to “support growth in the north as well”.

A joint statement issued by Grayling and Khan said they agreed that

“there is no doubt London needs new infrastructure to support its growth and ensure it continues as the UK’s economic powerhouse”.

Crossrail 2 has been long regarded by Transport for London and business as a vital next step to ease congestion, but the project had been omitted from the Queen’s speech and Conservative manifesto.

Khan and Grayling, who have been at loggerheads over transport issues including the running of London’s rail services, met last week to discuss Crossrail 2, with its anticipated £31.2bn budget a cause for concern.

Revisions will “improve affordability while maximising the key benefits of the scheme”, possibly meaning planned stations will disappear from the route, as well as commit London to pay up to half of the construction costs, likely through higher business rates.

Grayling said:

“I am a supporter of Crossrail 2 but given its price tag we have to ensure that we get this right.”

He said he and Khan would develop plans

“so that the public gets an affordable scheme that is fair to the UK taxpayer.”

Khan said:

“Crossrail 2 is essential for the future prosperity of London and the south-east, so I’m pleased that the transport secretary and I have reached an agreement to take this vital project forward.”

A host of other rail upgrades around the UK, including electrification in south Wales and the Midlands to Sheffield and Nottingham, were cut last week, prompting fears that electrification of the trans-Pennine route between Leeds and Manchester will be the next to be scrapped.

The government has been loth to look as if it favoured London – although Khan produced research arguing that the capital receives less funding per transport passenger than the rest of the country, at around £7 per journey compared with more than £10 nationally.

However, a thinktank on Monday claimed that the north would have received £59bn more in investment over the last decade if it had received the same per person for infrastructure as London. IPPR North analysis said that the money would have been enough to fill a billion potholes or develop a new high-speed east-west crossing.

It said that public spending was on average £282 per head in the north compared with the national average of £345 per head, and an average £680 per head in London in the last decade – and that £1,900 per capita was due to be spent on transport investment from 2016/17 onward, £1,500 more than the north’s figure.

While Grayling and Khan pledged to “ensure a funding package which works for both London and the rest of the country and recognises other priorities”, news of the agreement intensified anger around the country.

On Saturday Burnham wrote to Grayling to accuse the transport minister of “a major broken promise to the people of Greater Manchester and the North, and the derailment of the Northern Powerhouse” if trans-pennine electrification did not go ahead.

Grayling said in Manchester on Friday that the trans-Pennine route was too complicated to fully electrify – a claim dismissed by industry experts as “just spin”. Roger Ford, industry and technology editor at Modern Railways, said:

“We’ve been electrifying existing lines since the 1960s. There is no problem.”

He said that the bi-mode trains vaunted by Grayling, running on diesel as well as electricity, were a “bodge”, designed for short distances, not whole routes.

“Now it is being seen as a long-term alternative to electrification.”

Cllr Keith Wakefield, transport chair of the West Yorkshire combined authority, said he was disappointed that a vastly improved trans-pennine route — often dubbed HS3 — looked set to be derailed.

“If the secretary of state is warming us up for bad news, this makes a mockery of the government’s ambitions to rebalance the economy of the country and once again government seem to be going short-sighted in the North,” he said.

The Department for Transport said plans to electrify the trans-Pennine route had not been scrapped. A spokesman said it was “committed to electrification where it delivers benefits, but will also take advantage of new technology to improve journeys.” An investment decision will be made next year.

Crossrail 2 and HS3 were named by the Infrastructure Commission as the most urgent projects of national importance to get under way. London transport authorities have warned that without Crossrail 2, Euston station will be unable to cope with the numbers of passengers alighting from HS2’s high-speed trains once the full network is in operation from 2033.

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“Anger Over North-South Transport Spending Divide ‘Worth £59 Billion A Decade’”


[from the Huffington Post, 31/07/2017]


The government faces a backlash from angry northern commuters over transport spending

The Conservative Party is facing a growing backlash from angry northern commuters after it was revealed that the north of England has seen £59 billion less in transport spending compared to London over the last ten years.

Almost 35,000 people have signed a petition demanding more investment outside the capital amid a row over a North-South divide in government spending, with organisers claiming its success “lays bare the real anger in the north” about recent developments.

Last week, transport secretary Chris Grayling announced government support for a £30 billion Crossrail 2 scheme for London just days after axing or downgrading rail projects in Wales, the Midlands and the North, the Press Association reported.

Meanwhile, figures published by the Institute of Public Research (IPPR) North revealed that the area is “underfunded” by almost £6 billion a year compared to London.

Separate analysis claimed that the vast majority of Department for Transport staff work in the capital and the south east, leading to an “institutional bias” that “patronises” northern commuters.

Leaders in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle say Grayling had created “considerable uncertainty” and raised fears about the future of the Northern Powerhouse and the government’s aim of rebalancing the UK economy.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool city region mayor Steve Rotheram plan to convene a summit for northern political and business leaders in late August, before the return of Parliament.

IPPR director Ed Cox, who organised the petition, said the Department for Transport (DfT) “just isn’t listening” and called on the government to “deliver on its previous promises”.

“Its response has been to patronise northern commuters up-in-arms as mouthy troublemakers who need a good lecture on London’s special transport needs,” he said.

“The Government keeps saying that London businesses will pay half of Crossrail 2, but it’s being tin-eared on calls for the North to get these investment-raising powers too.

Cox added:

“Northern businesses would like to contribute but we need Transport for the North to get the powers TfL has to raise investment for essential infrastructure.”

But the DfT insisted money for the north is not being cut, despite the fact earlier pledges to electrify trans-Pennine rail lines to improve speed and capacity are now in doubt.

Instead, new “bi-mode” trains which run on diesel and electricity are planned. Critics say electric trains are faster, cleaner and greener.

A spokesperson for the DfT said in a statement:

“Building transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, create jobs and spread wealth across the country. That’s why we’re spending £57 billion on HS2, which will better connect Manchester and Leeds to the Midlands and London.

“It’s also why we’re committed to improving trans-Pennine services, and are working with Transport for the North to cut journey times and increase capacity between the major cities of the north.

“We are currently investing over £1 billion to improve rail infrastructure across the North of England, and major upgrades to the Manchester – Leeds – York route are being designed and developed.

“We are also investing £800 million on new road schemes in the North West, creating around 600 jobs – including upgrading the M62 to a four-lane smart motorway.”

They continued:

“In spending taxpayers’ money, it’s vital for the government to deliver value for the whole country.

“So while we have agreed to work further with Transport for London on Crossrail 2, we have also said that London needs to pay half of the upfront construction costs and we have not committed any public funding yet.”


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