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Grayling to get grilled over government's northern rail plans

Grayling to get grilled over government's northern rail plans

Transport secretary Chris Grayling is set to be lobbied hard over the government's plans for northern rail as he travels to attend a conference in Leeds.

Mr Grayling will be at an event organised by think-tank IPPR North on the future of the north's transport, before which he will have a private meeting with the board of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP).

They will be urging him to make a commitment to investment in a high-speed rail link across the Pennines from Manchester to Leeds, part of the much-mooted HS3 plan that would stretch from Liverpool in the west to Hull in the east.

NPP's research has found the numbers of commuters between Manchester and Leeds are 40 per cent lower than would normally be the case for two cities just 40 miles apart, and suggested the northern economy would get a £7 billion a year boost if the hour-long train time was cut by 20 minutes.

Speaking about the issue, NPP board member Lord Jim O’Neill, who will chair the meeting, said: "NPR will boost investment opportunities in towns and cities right across the North of England. Our polling underlines the huge public and business support for an east-west rail network. 

"If the Transport Secretary is serious about spreading regional growth across Britain, it’s vital that he urgently backs our plans for a new rail link."

Mr Grayling came under fire for recently cancelling plans to electrify more lines in the north, just days before announcing government backing for Crossrail 2 in London, a line that will provide a connection to his own constituency in Surrey. 

Among the critics was Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who questioned the government's commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.

However, Mr Grayling hit back at Mr Burnham and Labour in a speech in Manchester earlier this month, saying the present government had invested far more than Labour on new rail and road links in the north.

He also criticised the IPPR, claiming its figures stating more money was spent on transport in the south ignored money that came from central government but was devolved via local councils, such as a new link road between the A6 and Heysham in Lancashire.

Image: DfT

 

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