MIPIM | Reeves slams govt’s ‘lack of ambition’ on Northern Powerhouse Rail

The thing that would make the biggest difference in levelling up the North is getting that cross-North infrastructure right,” said Liverpool City Council chief executive Tony Reeves during a panel at MIPIM on Wednesday.

Reeves referenced the fact that the oldest commercial railway in the world is from Liverpool to Manchester. Back then, it took a little over an hour to make the journey. Today – nearly 200 years later – Reeves argued that it still normally takes the same amount of time.

“I’m hugely disappointed with the lack of ambition of government around Northern Powerhouse Rail and the potential to connect all the key cities to the north with high-speed links so that people from Newcastle could work in Liverpool and vice versa,” Reeves told the dozen gathered for the panel.

“It’s nuts, quite frankly,” he continued. “The agglomeration of benefits of an investment like that would be the biggest contribution to levelling up the government can make.”

Reeves was not the only one advocating for more transport infrastructure investment, with both Cardiff Council head of economic development Ken Poole and Newcastle Gateshead Initiative chief executive Sarah Green sharing the impact better transit links could make in their regions.

Richard Rees, managing director of Savills, also agreed with Reeves that transport infrastructure needed to be a priority in levelling up.

“If we could get both central government and local governments to focus on deliverable infrastructure, I think we’ll be making real progress,” he said. “I think we can begin, then, to really enjoy the differences between all the cities, which stand up very well in comparison with many places across the world.”

Green described how in Newcastle connectivity and transport have been key discussions – especially as people have moved out of the city during the pandemic to surrounding neighbourhoods. Making it easier to get into the city will help those cities thrive, she said. But transport alone cannot level up towns.

“We need to get rid of this rhetoric about the city is dead, the city is changing,” Green said. “That creates opportunities, but we need to make sure we take a holistic view. We cannot look at property on its own, we need to look at the culture offer, the entertainment offer, the health and sport offer. Cities are destinations.”

Aviva managing director of real estate Ben Sanderson argued that it is housing that should be at the forefront.

“Housing is the biggest social and economic challenge,” he said, adding that Aviva and other investors are interested in helping efforts to sort out issues around lack of affordable housing and having the wrong houses in the wrong places.

“Capital is keen to be part of the solution,” Sanderson said. “Housing is one of the triggers that will solve a lot of these issues we’ve got – not saying infrastructure and transport are not unbelievably important to some extent, but houses in the right place does help solve those big transport congestion issues as well… Housing is key.”

Reeves concurred that levelling up had to go beyond transport.

“Real levelling up is about systematic change, inclusive growth and positive public sector reforms that tackle things like health inequality and allow us to build more productivity,” Reeves said.

“What we need to solve that is actually deprivation and inequality,” he added later. “I sort of get a bit fed up with this debate about centralization versus devolution. It’s about government doing their job, and the local state or local partnerships or private sector doing their job and getting the two aligned around a single set of outcomes that really will tackle the underlying issues and unlock the potential of our places.”

Place North West MIPIM 2022 coverage is sponsored by Castle Green Homes.

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And I thought MIPIM was all about ‘selling the dream’………

By UnaPlanner

I know Boris Johnson hardly ever enters Liverpool but he was in Birkenhead 2 weeks ago and must have noticed from the waterfront that Liverpool is a large city within a large metropolitan area, could he not work out that such a vast region needs full NPR, plus direct HS2 for that matter.

By Anonymous

The interconnection between large Northern towns is the problem. There is no rail link between Bury and Bolton for instance.Westminster needs to stop thinking the North, is like the South West or East Anglia and start realising that demographically it is the same as the South East.

By Elephant

Completely agree regarding the state of public transport in the North West, its really poor in comparison to London and the SE where you have trains every 5 or 10 minutes and much more capacity and better links between satellite towns.

By Nick

The single most important factor in any levelling up project is raising the aspiration, attainment, and achievement of students in Northern England’s schools.

Transport, housing, infra-structure are all important as well, but if these things are all available to a relatively poorly educated (=low income) population, then they will never have any real impact, especially as any inward investment will be directed to areas with better educational outcomes – as indeed it already does.

The main political point I would add is that we need the Labour metro Mayors to spend less time fighting the Tories, and more time on working with the Government to get what the North needs; the fiasco of the Piccadilly station re-build (which should have been on the scale of St Pancras) can partly be put down to Andy Burnham who has failed to make the case for what is needed.
(Andy, set up a London office, and get face to face with every relevant minister and civil servant every day, rather than indulging in populist anti-Tory rhetoric which achieves negative results in reality, and just ends up with any available funding going elsewhere).

By AltPoV

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