Rail U-turn makes Northern Powerhouse ‘another Tory broken promise’

I have written to the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, accusing him of overseeing ‘yet another Tory broken promise’ since he announced the Government is no longer promising to electrify the Manchester – Leeds railway route. You can view the letter here.

Former Chancellor George Osborne announced the project to electrify the route between Manchester and Leeds in 2011 as part of the Government’s promise to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

In 2015 the Department for Transport said that electrification of the network which goes through Manchester, Leeds and York would be finished by 2022. Mr Grayling has since said electrification will instead be used ‘where it makes a difference’.

I’m very concerned that plans to electrify the entire train line between Manchester and Leeds could be cancelled because it is too difficult to implement. This will have a detrimental impact on my constituents in Oldham East and Saddleworth who are already having to endure pacer trains which have not been upgraded, increasing fares and a train station which is not fully accessible for wheelchair users or people with prams or buggies.

This is yet another Tory broken promise and comes just weeks after they promised the electrification of the TransPennine route as an integral part of the Northern Powerhouse promise.

This is worrying given that former Conservative Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin said, two years ago, that electrifying the line was at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse’.

I understand that diesel trains also have higher operating costs, and are less efficient and worse for the environment than electric trains. I don’t see how this helps produce an effective transport system in the North. Figures from IPPR North found that £1,943 is spent per person in London on current or future projects, compared with an average of £427 per head in the North of England. 

Given that plans to potentially downgrade electrification between Leeds and Manchester were announced at the same time as Cross Rail 2, a huge project in London, was given the green light represents yet another blow for my constituents and many across the north who rightly feel that infrastructure spending is heavily weighted towards London and the South East. 

This broken promise reflects the low priority the Tories have for the North. They have little commitment to rebalancing the economy and addressing the increasing inequalities that they have presided over. I urge the Government to rethink their plans.

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