We will deliver fast trans-Pennine rail route, pledges McLoughlin

11 Aug 15

The government has reiterated its commitment to a new high speed TransNorth rail link, despite rail electrification projects in the region being scaled back.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today set out the planned investment programme for the region, which is the focus of government’s Northern Powerhouse programme to boost growth through improved connectivity and devolution of powers.

He said that £13bn of investment was already scheduled, covering rail upgrades around Manchester and work to tackle bottlenecks on roads, and the government would push ahead with developing plans for a new cross-Pennine route.

Projects underway include a scheme to electrify the rail link between Manchester, Bolton and Preston by the end of 2016, while work to electrify lines between Manchester, Liverpool and Wigan has already been completed.

However, the project to fully electrify lines to Leeds was halted in June due to cost over-runs at Network Rail.

McLoughlin said today that both High Speed 2 and TransNorth east-west rail links would be constructed in the longer term to transform city-to-city rail connectivity.

“This one nation government is determined to close the economic gap between North and South. Investing in transport – something that successive governments have failed to do sufficiently – is vital to making that happen.

“Across the North, that investment is already having a huge impact, with programmes underway to upgrade our railways and our roads. We are determined to keep the momentum going.”

Lord O’Neill, the Treasury’s commercial secretary who is tasked with delivering devolution from Whitehall, said transport infrastructure was a key part of the commitment.

“Our investment is helping to better connect the region, building a strong Northern economy, and it is great to see the huge progress already underway.”

Responding to the announcement, Alexandra Jones, the chief executive of Centre for Cities said that strengthening transport links between northern cities was absolutely critical to boosting their local economies, and helping the UK compete globally.

“Without better links, these cities and the wider region won’t be able to fulfil their economic potential,: she added.

“While we welcome the confirmation of transport investments today, attention must now shift to how these plans will be delivered in practice. Northern city regions must be empowered to play a leading role in ensuring national investment helps support an integrated, co-ordinated transport system that meets the needs of residents and businesses across the North. That means delivering substantial devolution deals for city regions across the region, which include strategic transport powers and provide places with funding certainty over the long term.”

It was also announced by ministers today that lingerie tycoon Michelle Mone would lead a government-commissioned independent review into how more business start-ups and entrepreneurship can be encouraged in disadvantaged communities, including in the North."

The review will identify the obstacles that people in these areas face in becoming entrepreneurs, such as the lack of business and social networks, and the lack of inspiring role models and mentors.

Mone, who herself was brought up in a deprived part of Glasgow’s East End and founded her Ultimo business in her twenties, will make recommendations to work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and business secretary Sajid Javid next year.

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