Published — 16 July, 2019
View from Westminster
Soon we will have a new Prime Minister. That person will have some new issues to deal with and some continuing issues which will take time to put right.
One of those long-term issues is investment in the North. I will work with our new Prime Minister to continue highlighting projects in the North which could benefit from additional investment and pressing the case for further rebalancing of our national economy.
This will take a long time to put right because it took a long time for us to get into the position where we are now. We are catching up on decades of under investment.
But we are catching up.
We are seeing investment in rail rolling stock across the whole Northern and Transpennine lines including our own. We are waving a not-very-fond farewell to the pacers and welcoming completely refurbished stock. We are seeing faster services to Leeds and brand-new Azuma trains are going to be starting more frequent services on the East Coast Mainline shortly.
£200 million has been committed to smart ticketing across the North. Smart ticketing is an industry term. What it means is that, like London, the North will have its own Oyster-style card available for all journeys and all modes of transport.
The M62 is being upgraded to a four-lane motorway and an additional £63 million has been allocated to congestion relief at so-called pinch points in Yorkshire and the North East.
As well as improving the railways other sustainable transport schemes are winners too with £40million for cycling in and around Leeds and over £2m to make Harrogate a low emission bus town.
Investment in transport is important but so is investment in culture, tourism and sport. A new £3m Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund has been launched – creative and cultural organisations can bid for grants and loans of up to £150,000 for projects which will create a meaningful social impact in their local communities.
The power of Yorkshire was evident too when it came to attracting Channel 4 to make Leeds its new headquarters. Most pundits had assumed that Birmingham or Manchester would be the obvious choice. Business, councils and community made a powerful pitch that Channel 4 should come to this side of the Pennines and were successful. Jobs relocating from South to North is part of our regeneration economically and culturally. With last year’s Great Exhibition of the North and the Government underwriting the UCI Road World Race Championships here in Harrogate in September we are seeing high levels of investment.
So what does this mean to the individuals and families in the North? It means you are much more likely to know someone who has a job – there are 225,000 more people in employment in Yorkshire and the Humber than in 2010. It means if you set up your own business or know someone that has a new business it is much more likely to have been successful – there are 69,000 more businesses in the region than nine years ago.
It means you will be able to get around using the trains more quickly and comfortably and you have greater access to more sustainable forms of transport. It means faster journeys to and from London – essential for conference venues like Harrogate.
Let’s not pretend we are where we need to be. We are not. The under-investment in electrification over decades needs to be corrected. The prioritisation of sustainable transport need to be matched with infrastructure schemes and implementation plans. We need to ensure that students leave school, university or apprenticeships with the skills the North needs.
So while I acknowledge there is a lot more to do and that we started in a position behind the South, it would also be wrong to pretend that progress – and significant progress at that – is not being made. I understand people’s impatience – I share it.
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