COMMENT | Promising start for Johnson but North needs more

Comments (20)

The Prime Minister’s promise to back Northern Powerhouse Rail is welcome but there’s still much more to be done to support the North, particularly outside the cities, writes Henry Brooks of Tatton Group.

The last time Boris Johnson was in Manchester was head-to-head in a hustings with Jeremy Hunt. When asked questions about their favourite places in the North of England, both gave near identical, bland answers about the Midland Hotel opposite, resulting in an understandable nervousness about the new Prime Minister’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.

Fortunately, just hours after taking office, the PM was here again making a speech – and announcements – at the Museum of Science and Industry, a key part not only the North’s but the UK’s and the World’s history, which has been greeted with cautious optimism.

He has rightly been praised for committing to investment in northern infrastructure, which recently has been more promise than delivery, but there is much more than that to do. At the hustings he was worryingly weak on how to solve the housing crisis – his London experience perhaps unhelpful in making him think brownfield land can be the sole solution, especially in areas where there simply isn’t any available – but very positively he did commit to more devolution, specifically offering Andy Burnham some of the fare-box.

Cities however are not the only – or even the largest – drivers of the Northern Powerhouse or its growth. Wider conurbations, towns, villages and the hugely vibrant economy in rural areas are absolutely key.

Cheshire and Warrington has been the most productive economy in the UK according to the Office of National Statistics – despite have only one city, Chester, within its boundaries. Devolution in areas like Cheshire & Warrington, and proper cross-boundary, spatial and infrastructure plans are essential to delivering the rebalancing and potential this country desperately needs and deserves.

The Manchester Airport Growth Corridor in particular will be a litmus test for this government, especially Chancellor, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, and for housing, Robert Jenrick. There are still not enough northern MPs in cabinet, so the voices of Jake Berry and Esther McVey (both “attending”) for our share of growth, investment and policy support will be essential.

The need and opportunity to look north of the Oxford-Cambridge corridor is huge for UK PLC. It is disappointing that the Northern Powerhouse Rail announcement today stops at the buffers of Manchester Piccadilly and doesn’t reach Manchester Airport – the only place to serve more destinations than London Heathrow.

The report card therefore perhaps reads: “A promising start but much, much more to do.”

Here at Tatton Group we look forward to working with this Government and for them to prove their true commitment to work with the public and private sector to deliver for the whole country before, during and after Brexit.

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Let’s be clear, HS2 is a terrible idea. projected to run over budget from £50Bn to £102Bn, displacing, disrupting & destroying hundreds of towns and villages, the ecological impact of creating the thing and the future environmental havoc which will come. If we are moving to a carbon zero society by 2038 (Andy Burnham stated), why are we encouraging more fossil fuel heavy transportation, on top of the earmarked expansion of Manchester Airport in 2040?

Furthering this, if instead we invested that money in upgrading and electrifying our existing rail service in the north, wouldn’t this be the powerhouse, instead of expanding the London commuter belt.

Let’s be honest, the large proportion of people travelling to London for their jobs are already significantly more privileged than the people who require an upgraded local transport network. Reducing time to London by 30 minutes helps very few.

By let's be clear

HS3 starting as planned from Liverpool with the superport no brainer !

By Anonymous

Liverpool Airport needs rail connection more investment is need for Liverpool for its infrastructure, the potential for Liverpool is massive , its going to happen.

By Anonymous

How is HS2 destroying hundreds of towns and villages? What you really mean is it is going through the posh bits of Cheshire and the people there don’t want it to effect their cushy lives. It is vital that Britain has comparable railways to peer countries in Europe and ridiculous that we have better connections from our capital city to Brussels and Paris than we do to Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester.

By Elephant

If we built an additional lower cost freight line to get rid of the long freight trains off the main line then we could support much higher speeds even with the existing pendolino trains … this seems a much cheaper alternative to me.The money could be put to better use creating east – west connections in the North.

By another POV

I agree with elephant. @lets be clear doesn’t understand wider picture. HS2 will remove pressure from existing railway system allowing this to be improved creating huge spare capacity and be more efficient which in turn improves local rail journeys. The choice isn’t investment in HS2 or HS3. It’s investment in both.

By Railway nerd

There is absolutely NO scientific economic evidence (ask an economist) that knocking a FEW MINUTES off a train journey from Manchester to London or anywhere else somehow magically creates more economic wealth for society. Don’t be fooled again!

By James Yates

@elephant If you’re insinuating I live in a posh area of Cheshire I assure you that’s not the case, however the line doesn’t miraculously disappear when it leaves Cheshire, it will still run through towns and countryside all the way down, usually how it works. But maybe if the ludicrous amounts of money put into this vanity project can be used to upgrade the current lines, we might have a better comparison, it’s not all about heading to the capital. And after the impending doom of Brexit occurs, it may be even less likely that European connections are important, as sad that is. Also, aren’t we struggling to fund our NHS, surely that might need a few extra quid, unless you’re desperate to be in London that 30 minutes early.

By lets be clear

HS2 is a huge vanity project that has not yet been able to demonstrate any significant benefit to the people of the north west APART FROM a few trite comments that keep getting kicked around about improving capacity and getting to London a little bit faster. And even that is now in doubt now. The money wasted on this should be pushed into giving the north better transport infrastructure instead of improving travel times to and from London. Which option would suit, more travellers?

By D

A few minutes?
My 1hr 45minute journey could be almost be halved to circa 55mins… I’ll happily take that!

By Deja

I personally don’t think that it is ambitious enough. It should go to Glasgow from Manchester and Edinburgh from Leeds and it should go from Paddington to Cardiff via Bristol and from Bristol to Birmingham to meet the line from Euston to Leeds and Manchester, It would then incorporate every one of our major cities. Liverpool would be connected via NPR to both Leeds and Manchester. There could be stops at Preston, Lancaster and Carlisle on the Manchester/Glasgow line and at York, Durham and Newcastle on the Leeds/Edinburgh line. It would be a mammoth task but the jobs created would be phenomenal and the prestige of having achieved that would be something we could all be proud of.

By Elephant

@deja If looked at closely enough, you’ll see that to mitigate the rising rocketing costs, it may have to stop North of London and then to transfer to a different line to get to central London, that 1hr 45 isn’t happening.

@elephant It is true our rail network is laughable, but so is the education system, the healthcare system, the political system. The Guardian reported today that 4 million people are trapped in poverty. Tell me spending £100 billion on this is something to be proud of.

By Let's be clear

Typical of a comments section for people not to understand that HS2 isn’t just a fancy train to the capital. Its a huge investment in capacity and frees up the existing rail network, improving services for ‘secondary’ regional towns and cities. And environmental impact? Lets expand the Motorways and build more roads instead.

By Nimby hater

@nimbyhater I’m assuming your name suggests I live somewhere effected by these works, again, you’re incorrect. I live in central Manchester, if anything i’d be a beneficiary of these works. Though I don’t feel you understand my point, using this money for upgrading existing rail networks, improving tired lines, electrifying the system, replacing old carriages, etc etc, would easily create a more accessible and free flowing economy for the North than directing everyone to London. The expansion of motorways should always be a none starter, if we had efficient and affordable rail infrastructure (Not super fast London networks), driving wouldn’t nearly be desirable.

Though if you have any evidence which backs up your point that isn’t directly from HS2 or a benefactor of it, please let me know so I see your view.

By Let's be clear

Let’s be clear you do have a point but the 5th biggest economy in the world should have all those things you list at a very high standard, we shouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul. The problem we have in the UK is a centralised system unwilling to invest outside the M25. Birmingham our second largest city has only two tramlines and is an hour from London, yet may as well be on the moon, whereas London has a huge Underground, mainline stations on every corner,DLR, soon Crossrail. This state of affairs is beyond ridiculous. How can a city an hour away from London be so neglected . We need to stop over-egging the pudding in the South East and start pouring billions into areas with large populations, so that they can be brought up to speed and power the economy. This dismissal of vast areas of our country as irrelevant, is neglect.There is no other word that I can think of.People constantly wittering on about this being a white elephant are allowing the doubters a get out of gaol free card. When it is cancelled, which is looking increasingly likely, Westminster will just say that nobody in the North wanted it anyway and the money will be funneled into Crossrail 2.When we complain that out transport is poor in the future, they will turn round and say, well you had your chance with HS2 and you constantly whined about it, so you can carry on using pacer trains.

By Elephant

@elephant I wholly agree that most areas north of the M25 have been financially neglected in recent times (apart from Manchester’s recent resurgence), and to say that Britain had one of the first rail systems in the world shows how poorly managed it is, I live 2 minutes from the first ever rail station, Liverpool Rd, and I feel some of the trains I get on haven’t improved since it opened. But isn’t it more beneficial for someone travelling from deprived areas of the North, to be able to access jobs close to them with more reliability and efficiency, than the need to reduce speeds to London from Manchester by 35 minutes, in fact I quite enjoy the train to London.

By Let's be clear

I think we need it all. We need HS2 and 3 and we need proper intracity connections within our cities so that travelling between them is seamless. If you live in Didsbury you should be able to jump on the tram then get HS2 to Birmingham and then get a fast link to Solihull without having to break into a sweat.

By Elephant

Nobody has asked about capacity issues on the West Coast Main Line, particularly south of Rugby. It is virtually impossible to find a path for a train service from the North West any longer as the line is at capacity and badly needs additional capacity. That, surely, was part of the thinking for HS2. Liverpool, as a major port, needs to be able to send freight onwards by rail but the capacity is constrained. As for Liverpool not even being on the network, that is simply ridiculous. As daft, really, as a comment in the Sunday Times last week referring to a new apartment development in Liverpool which will be “on the edge of the city’s proposed central business district”. All these people in the south who have no idea what happens here.

By robwirral

An interesting report Henry Brooks noting the comment “Wider conurbations, towns, villages and the hugely vibrant economy in rural areas are absolutely key” Knutsford being a paradigm where the market town is in grave danger of losing a vibrant economy due to (i) a lack of modest infrastructure, meaning a pedestrianised area is desperately needed to encourage the local economy to remain vibrant (ii) excessive business and excessive private landlord commercial property rates have resulted in an estimated 15% of local businesses forced to close or move out of the town (iii) a decaying portfolio of town centre properties (iv) under-utilised assets such as The Heath remaining nothing more than a home for a fair to pitch up once or twice a year (take a note from Parsons Green in London, where a similar area to The Heath has created a vibrant economy and place for people to congregate and enjoy.

By @KnutsfordWA16

A promising start…. lol, ok.

By Pineapple Chunx