I wasn’t the least bit surprised this week when the Government again decided to put London ahead of the North. They’ve yet again shown where their priorities lie, and it isn’t with us.
They’ve managed to find tens of billions for Crossrail 2, as well as a £1 billion bung for the DUP to stay in the job.
At the same time, they’ve rather conveniently waited until the summer to announce it’s no longer their intention to fund the project to electrify the train line between Manchester and Leeds.
I’m furious as it was only two years ago, the then Transport Secretary told us that electrifying the line was “at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse”. Imagine my surprise when on a visit to Manchester last week the new Transport Secretary had just about enough time to inform us that the Government has had yet another U-turn.
All passengers across Stockport were told by way of an explanation by the person who is supposed to represent transport infrastructure for the whole country was, “We don’t need to electrify all of every route.”
This critical part of the Northern Powerhouse strategy is yet again subject to an indefinite pause, just as it was in August 2015, the last time the Government decided that upgrading Northern rail links wasn’t a priority.
I am sick and tired of public transport in our area being neglected. Between Stockport and Stalybridge we have a train line that is served by one train a week in one direction only. This service used to receive a high volume of passengers, connecting Stockport, Reddish South, Denton and Stalybridge with connecting services to the North East.
There is an enormous opportunity to introduce better services along this route linking to Victoria and making it a little easier for people to get to work at larger employment sites across Greater Manchester, as well as improved connections for the community and helping to cut down on our already congested roads.
But the Government doesn’t seem to care and seems happy to let the North lag far behind other centres, especially London. How is it fair that the Government spends £680 per year, per person, for transport spend in the North West, against £1943, per year, per person.
Locally, Labour authorities are delivering and investing more in linking up communities by road. We saw this recently with the announcement by Stockport Council of the new Travis Brow Link Road which will provide a direct link between the A6 and Junction 1 of the M60, but this a drop in the ocean compared to the money that Government has cut from the area’s council budgets since 2010.
One of the biggest concerns raised consistently by my constituents is on the state of our roads, with potholes one of the biggest gripes. The North desperately needs greater infrastructure spending to match our potential; yet the Tories seem to forget that Greater Manchester is one of the fastest growing economies of any region in the UK. It’s time the Government produce a fairer transport and infrastructure settlement for Stockport and our wider city-region. I won’t hold my breath this time.