Opinion Former Article

Chancellor promises northern rail capital

Railways in the north of England and the Midlands have been promised an additional £300M by the Chancellor Philip Hammond. He told the Conservative party conference that the money will help ensure High Speed 2 links up future Northern Powerhouse and Midlands rail projects “while keeping open all options for services through Manchester Piccadilly”.

He also said that the Government remains committed to the Northern Powerhouse project “to join the great cities of the north into a single connected market with a population to rival London” and is also keen to see the ‘Midlands Engine’ develop too.
 
A statement released by the Treasury shortly after the Chancellor’s speech added that a further £100M will be made available to local road schemes across the north.
 
Civil Engineering Contractors’ Association director Marie-Claude Hemming welcomed the announcement, but called for the Government to go further. “The Chancellor’s speech is extremely positive in terms of strengthening the northern economy via infrastructure delivery,” she said.
 
“We now urge the Government to capitalise on its investment by putting Transport for the North on a statutory footing as soon as possible and enabling the transport delivery body to have similar powers as Transport for London through the raising of its own private finance.”
 
Think tank IPPR North director Ed Cox, who launched a petition this summer calling for more money for northern transport, said: “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 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.”
 
Conference also heard the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling pledge to roll out smart ticketing on almost all of the rail network by the end of next year. He promised an £80M programme to bring forward ticketing using mobile phones, barcodes and smartcards. “It is what passengers want and we will deliver it,” he said.
 
♦ Also on Monday it was announced that Barry White of the Scottish Futures Trust is to become Transport for the North’s new chief executive, replacing David Brown who left this summer. Barry White said: “I am looking forward to leading the TfN team at a pivotal point in its journey as the organisation nears statutory status as the first sub national transport body in England.”
 
TfN chair John Cridland added: “Barry brings a balance of public and private sector infrastructure development experience that makes him the right person to take on TfN, as we are on the verge of achieving statutory status and about to publish our ambitious strategic transport plan later in the year.”

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