It is essential that we continue to invest in our northern rail links if we are to realise our potential as an ‘economic powerhouse’.
We need the North to become an interconnected network of successful towns and cities in order to provide the nation with a much needed counterbalance to the increasing dominance of London and the South East.
As the Chancellor reminded us last week, the northern economy has grown more slowly than the rest of England over the previous decade. This must not be allowed to continue. Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, and York, together with our surrounding rural communities, can all work together to rival the global centres of London, New York, and Tokyo in terms of talent and ambition.
However, in order to work together effectively we need to invest in state of the art transport links. Sadly, after a decade of neglect our northern rail links are simply not good enough, particularly our East-West connections. Shockingly it is quicker to travel nearly 300 miles from London to Paris by train than it is to travel less than half that distance from Hull to Liverpool.
Despite having 13 years to invest in our railways, the previous government only electrified nine miles of track between 1997 and 2010. I am proud to have supported a Government that has transformed this appalling record by funding the electrification of over 850 miles of the rail network. The commitment is part of the largest investment in our railways since Victorian times and the Liverpool to York line will be electrified in its entirety by 2018.
A new trans-pennine route is set to be built, increasing East-West rail freight capacity and allowing passenger services to zoom across the region at speeds exceeding 125 mph. The proposed HS3 route between Leeds and Manchester will be faster still, cutting journey times and boosting business investment in the region.
Another important lesson we have learnt from the previous government is that taxpayers’ money must never be wasted. For every £1 invested in the Northern Hub initiative, £4 will be returned to the region’s economy. Space will be freed up for 700 more trains every day with room for an additional 40 million passengers and up to 30,000 new jobs will be created in the process.
Job creation is at the heart of our spending plans and in many ways we are seeing a Northern led recovery. Of the two million new private sector jobs created under this Government, 80% have been created outside of London. Across my own constituency unemployment has more than halved since 2010 and continues to fall as yesterday’s fantastic job figures demonstrate. The strong jobs growth in York is another clear sign that our long-term economic plan is working not just in London but across the North.
I also want to see improved rail links for the smaller communities surrounding our great city. With high speed rail coming to the North, I want to ensure my constituents in communities like Haxby and Strensall will benefit as much as those in Micklegate or Guildhall. I was very disappointed when last year’s bid for funding for a new station at Haxby was unsuccessful. I have been a strong supporter of the campaign for a long time now as a new station would serve over 120,000 passengers every year. I have since had several meetings with Transport Ministers and senior representatives from Network Rail in order to get the initiative back on track (no pun intended).
The Department for Transport’s public consultation on the future of the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises closes on Monday and I would urge you to support me in my calls for better services at York station and a new stop at Haxby. You can email NorthernTPEconsultation2014@dft.gsi.gov.uk or can write to the Northern TPE Consultation Co-ordinator, Department for Transport, 4/15 Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR, with your views.