Osborne: Chancellor’s £300m a ‘downpayment’ for Northern Powerhouse Rail

Former Chancellor George Osborne was among the political leaders to welcome Philip Hammond’s announcement allocating £300m of investment in Northern rail connectivity today.

Osborne, who is also chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “It’s very welcome that the Chancellor has listened to communities and businesses across the North calling for this downpayment on Northern Powerhouse Rail – and it demonstrates the impact the North can have when we act in partnership and speak with one voice.”

In a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today, Hammond announced an additional £300m of funding towards rail investment in the North, alongside a £100m fund towards local road schemes.

The road schemes, which will be funded from existing budgets, include 13 projects in the North West, 10 in the North East, and 10 in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Transport for the North, which appointed former Scottish Futures Trust boss Barry White as its chief executive last Friday, said the investment would “ensure that as much of the North as possible benefits from this major infrastructure investment.”

“This announcement is a significant step forward in TfN’s plans for the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail. It will enable much-needed transformational rail connections for the North to be delivered cheaper, faster and with less disruption.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government and partners to ensure that future growth in services is planned for when designing these vital connections.

“This will include further work on the arrangements at Manchester Piccadilly and we are pleased that the Chancellor recognises the importance of keeping all options open.

“This will ensure that there is enough capacity and flexibility to provide for both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail services, and to allow for growth throughout the 21st century and beyond.”

However, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the announcement was “only a first step towards providing the investment that the North needs and was promised.

“At best this investment will only deliver benefits in the future. However the travelling public in the North is having to put up with sub-standard rail services right now.

“Electrification across the Pennines was promised in 2011 but today the Chancellor was silent on this. People here deserve a better answer on when Manchester to Leeds services will improve.”

“Today’s announcement would not have been made if the North had not got organised and found its voice over the summer.

“We won’t put up with clapped out trains and congested roads any longer. Until we have a clear plan for the investment required to build a Northern Powerhouse we were promised, the voice of the North will only get stronger.”

And think tank IPPR North added the Chancellor’s funding announcements represented “a drop in the ocean” for the North.

“We welcome the fact that the Chancellor has heard the anger of the 87,000 people who have signed our petition for more transport spending in the North and that he recognises the economic argument for better connectivity, but £300m is but a drop in the ocean in comparison to what is needed and nowhere near the £59bn catch-up cash necessary to narrow the spending gap with London.

“At the Autumn Budget in November we need to hear a real commitment to the fresh billions to get Northern infrastructure to where it needs to be for the country to prosper.”

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