Lukewarm welcome for £13m powerhouse blueprint

The Government’s £13bn Northern Powerhouse blueprint has been given a lukewarm welcome in Lancashire.

The plan outlines the road and rail improvements the Government is funding to improve infrastructure in the North West and thus boost its economy.

Among the schemes named are the ongoing electrification of the rail network, the new franchises to replace Pacer trains on local Northern routes, line speed works to enable faster, longer trains between Manchester and Preston, and a new four-car electric train services between Liverpool and Preston.

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But the announcement has been branded nothing new and doubts have been cast over its timescale and ability to help Lancashire.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who was visiting the re-drilling of the Farnworth tunnel to allow for electrification to speed up trains between Preston and Manchester, said: “This one nation government is determined to close the economic gap between North and South. Investing in transport – something successive governments have failed to do sufficiently – is vital to making that happen.”

But Paul Foster, Federation of Small Businesses development manager for Lancashire, said: “Today’s announcements put some meat on the bones of the Northern Powerhouse plans.

“What we must keep banging the drum about is the whole of the north benefitting.

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“We need our Members of Parliament, our local authorities and our Local Enterprise Partnership for Lancashire to ensure the local area is fully involved in the Northern Powerhouse activities and getting the best deal for our local businesses and communities.”

Preston MP Mark Hendrick said: “It’s just putting out headlines, nothing is changing on the ground and if it does it’s at a slow speed. I’ll believe it when I see it happening.”

But Blackpool North’s Conservative MP Paul Maynard said: “I welcome this blueprint for investment in transport across the North as a demonstration of the Conservatives’ commitment to a one-nation approach – rebalancing our economy and creating a Northern Powerhouse.”