Clegg: Make Northern transport Autumn Statement priority

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is calling for transport improvements to be part of the next Autumn Statement in December, including new trains and electrified cross-Pennine rail links.

At the Northern Future summit in Leeds today Clegg is expected to outline plans for a rail improvement package, with better trains for Northern cities to end overcrowding and upgrade passenger facilities, a cut in Manchester to Leeds and Sheffield journey times to 40 minutes by 2025, and electrified cross-Pennine links between Liverpool and Hull by 2025.

He also wants to extend the M62 between Manchester and Leeds into eight lanes by using the hard shoulder.

The Deputy Prime Minister's call for electrified rail links comes days after Network Rail's announcement that works to introduce electric train multiple units between Liverpool and Manchester were delayed. Electric services were due to be in place by December, but are now postponed until next year.

Clegg is hosting the Northern Futures summit with Centre for Cities in Leeds to bring together hundreds of people to discuss creating an economic core in the north. More than 500 ideas from local people, businesses and academics about how best to promote a strong economic future for the north were received, and the nine best ideas will be discussed and debated at the summit.

Clegg said: "One of the key things that comes up time and again is the need for better transport links – electrification for the rail networks connecting Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, renovation of the dilapidated commuter lines. That is why I am pushing for a huge programme of transport improvements in the North to begin immediately.

"The North needs improved transport now. The roads and railway lines connecting our great northern cities have seen improvements in recent years, but I want more. Much more.

"As we negotiate over what gets government funding in the autumn statement, one of my key priorities will be to change that. We need to get this started as soon as possible. I want a fully upgraded and electrified network between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield by 2025.

"This is not just about rail. 64% of journeys in the North are by car. We need to build on the announcements already made to improve road links such as the M62. I want to go further, starting by extending the full stretch of the M62 between Manchester and Leeds to eight lanes using the "smart" motorway model (that is, turning the hard shoulder into a fourth lane in each direction), and having a programme of improvements for the Woodhead Pass between Manchester and Sheffield.

"I will push to see these in the upcoming Roads Investment Strategy for completion by 2025."

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