Lisa Nandy MP: Transport plans were a total con

The Government’s announcement on rail investment in the North last week was nothing short of a disgrace.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 9:45 am
Updated Friday, 26th November 2021, 9:46 am
Lisa Nandy MP

The long-promised and much-needed transformation of the rail network across the North has effectively been cancelled. The Government has once again over-promised and under-delivered.

The scaling back of Northern Powerhouse Rail including the scrapping of the proposed new high-speed line from Manchester to Leeds via Bradford, coupled with the cancellation of the Eastern leg of High Speed 2 is a double blow for our region and the whole of the North of England.

Both schemes, which would have created more than 150,000 new jobs and connected 13 million people in major towns and cities in our industrial heartlands, have been promised over and over again by the Prime Minister, the Transport Secretary, dozens of ministers and their predecessors.

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A once-in-a-generation chance to transform opportunity across the whole country, rebalancing the economy and making it work for working people looks set to be lost.

So much for Boris Johnson’s promise to level the playing field and make things better for households across the whole of the country.

In our area, after years of chopping and changing the Government have finally agreed to honour their promise to electrify the Wigan to Bolton line. But quietly, alongside this “great new” announcement, Ministers have also approved plans to axe our direct links to the south side of Manchester and Manchester Airport.

So after years of broken promises Wigan is finally getting improvements to the line, but they’re taking away our trains. You just couldn’t make it up.

It will pull the rug out from under our local economy and mean more misery for commuters. Tory Ministers know this. It’s why they agreed to drop similar plans only three years ago.

They also announced the cancellation of the upgrade to Manchester Piccadilly, condemning the whole network to years more overcrowded and unreliable services.

In the seven years since we were promised a “transport revolution” in the North by the then Chancellor, George Osborne, the Tories have sent out more than 60 press releases re-announcing the plans that were eventually dropped last week.

The Prime Minister made transforming our rail infrastructure a key pledge at the last election to win votes in the North. Now that the Government’s real plans have been revealed it confirms that it was a total con.

Every promise has been broken. You cannot trust a single word he says.

The worst part is that the communities who will feel the brunt of years of broken promises, empty words and no action are at the same time being squeezed by the Tories’ tax hikes and rising bills, as those with the broadest shoulders remain largely untouched.

Those same working people will likely face a record increase in rail fares in January. They’ll be paying more than 50% more to get to work than a decade ago – relying on a crumbling, outdated and under-resourced system that prioritises private company profits ahead of passengers. It is the same with buses, with fares up 70%, use down and not a single one of the 4,000 zero-emission buses promised by the Prime Minister three years ago having been delivered.

There is another way. Labour would reform our transport networks, so they work for the people and communities who rely on them and ensure they are fit-for-purpose for the economy of the future – with investment spread more evenly across the country so that parents are not forced to see their children leave the places where they were raised to find opportunity that is denied on their doorstep.

Most importantly, Labour would put working people first, using the power of governmen and the skill of business to ensure good quality jobs are created here in Britain – in every region.

It’s insulting to expect that people in our region should be satisfied with watered down schemes designed in Whitehall and crumbs from the table. We were promised a Northern Powerhouse, we were promised we would be levelled up but all we have been given is a cut price, half-baked rail plan which sees the North losing out yet again under this rotten Government.