Phil MeekinView Profile
Northern business leaders will hold a summit with council leaders and mayors from five cities in the North of England this month to try to press ministers for more investment in their cities. Since the change of leadership in the government, many feel that the focus on the Northern Powerhouse has waned with less commitment to providing the investment cities in the North need.
Cities to be included in the talks are Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle; all cities that have struggled in different ways in the years before the Northern Powerhouse scheme was announced by former chancellor George Osborne.
The mayors have been accused of ‘scaremongering’ as Minister Jake Berry said that billions are already being spent across the North. However, council leaders and mayors pointed to recent statements which have caused ‘confusion and concern’; in particular, councillors pointed to the statement from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling regarding Northern train lines which will no longer be electrified.
The electrification of the TransPennine route was seen as a commitment from the government to the Northern Powerhouse but now it has been announced that not all of the route will be electrified, concerns have been raised about the future of the Northern Powerhouse.
So as the commitment to full electrification is gone, support from the Transport Secretary has moved towards the new London line, Crossrail 2. Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has said that there would be “widespread anger” at the Transport Secretary’s decision to support Crossrail 2.
However, a spokesman for the Department for Transport spoke to the BBC to say that more than £1bn would be spent on rail infrastructure in the North in the next five years whilst cities in the North would also benefit from the High Speed 2 rail link.
It is argued however that the scrapping of rail electrification will lengthen journey times, raise the cost of running the rail network as a whole and increase carbon emissions. Instead of electrification, the government is proposing bi-mode trains for the North of England which will switch between electric and diesel depending on what part of the line they are on.
Many feel that despite new trains, the North will still suffer from the same problems of long journey times and train overcrowding which does not help Northern cities pitch themselves as the place to be for up and coming businesses.
So while those in the North argue that money is not being made available for them to improve and develop, it is likely that councillors, mayors and the public will be keeping a close eye on the Northern Powerhouse and any future investment that will be made to infrastructure to help many businesses in the North start and continue to grow.
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Content image – South West Trains