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Concern over possible further delays to trans-Pennine rail upgrade

Responding to speculation that Government is planning to delay electrification of the TransPennine rail route again, West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Chair Cllr Keith Wakefield said:

“If Transport secretary Chris Grayling is, as yesterday’s Sunday Times reported, preparing to delay the upgrade of this crucial rail link, it really does raise a question mark about the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse and narrowing the economic gap between north and south.”

In the article, the Sunday Times said owing to a worsening funding crisis at Network Rail, the Transport Secretary is preparing to delay the electrification projects including electrify the TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds. The scheme, central to the Northern Powerhouse project could be delayed beyond 2022.

Economic strength

Cllr Wakefield continued: “An article in the same newspaper quoted Northern Powerhouse Partnership board member and former Treasury Minister Lord Jim O’Neill arguing the case for better connections across the Pennines and halving the train journey from Manchester to Leeds to 30 minutes. And in 2014, then Prime Minister David Cameron said that better links across the Pennines would “make the most of the economic strength we have got in Leeds and Manchester and other cities besides”.

“Yet now it looks like this work, already put on hold in 2015 by Mr Chris Grayling’s predecessor Patrick McLoughlin, is being returned to the back-burner while the government seeks a cheaper solution.

Long grass

“Just weeks ago Mr Grayling was in Halifax on the general election campaign trail making assurances about the government’s transport plans for the north but now, post-election it looks like he’s about to kick the trans-Pennine upgrade into the long grass.

“What we need to see now is Ministers reaffirming, in no uncertain terms, their commitment to the Northern Powerhouse and the investment needed to make it a reality.”
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