Thursday, November 6, 2014

News: Clegg calls for investment in North's transport links


Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP, Nick Clegg has called for investment to improve the transport links between Sheffield and the other major cities in the North.

Before he hosts a Northern Futures Summit in Leeds, Clegg stated that he wants to see electrified cross-Pennine links between Liverpool and Manchester on one side and Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull on the other. This will shorten journey times to 40 minutes at most between any two of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield and end the misery of overcrowding when people journey to work.

South Yorkshire is to get a proposed station on the £50 billion HS2 rail network and last month Sir David Higgins, chairman of HS2 Ltd, highlighted the importance of improving the connections between the north's great cities and a potential new high speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds, dubbed HS3.

As plans for high speed rail stretch to 2032, the Deputy Prime Minister address the urgent need to improve "dilapidated commuter lines" in the North as the Government finalises what gets funding in the upcoming Autumn Statement.

Specific to Sheffield, Nick Clegg is asking for a fully upgraded and electrified network between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield by 2025, better rolling stock to improve commuter routes in the north – also by 2025, and a programme of improvements for the Woodhead Pass road link between Manchester and Sheffield.

A key current project for the Sheffield city region is the £560m Northern Hub which is set to increase rail capacity across the north of England by 700 services per day. Scheduled to complete in 2019, elements includes £45m for doubling Dore junction and Calder Valley journey time improvement. The hopes are that the Northern Hub would lead to a faster journey time of 40 minutes between Sheffield and Manchester with trains running every 20 minutes.

Last year the Department for Transport challenged Network Rail to bring forward electrification of the Derby-Sheffield section of the Midland Mainline to before 2020. Network Rail have recently said that they can't, due to "lead-in time for a National Grid connection at Chesterfield and the unacceptable disruption that early completion would bring."

Nick Clegg, said: "The North needs improved transport now. The roads and railway lines connecting our great northern cities have seen improvements in recent years, but I want more. Much more.

"London and South East has had billions of transport investment over recent years from HS1 to Crossrail to the Northern Line extension. The perfectly reasonable requests I have been hearing from the North are basics that are needed if we are to create a true economic hub in the North of England.

"Ancient rolling stock and lines that have not been upgraded in 30 years are not fit for a 21st century metropolis. Decrepit trains such as the Pacers, which are literally ancient buses on rails, are not a fair way for people in the North to get to and from work. They would not be deemed acceptable on London commuter lines, and they are not acceptable in the North."

Today's Northern Futures summit will bring together participants – from those charged with leading northern cities, to the businesses driving their economies, and the young people who will shape them in the future – to discuss a new vision for the north of England.

Alongside transport on the agenda is decentralisation, stimulating tourism, improving digital technologies and creating better urban environments.

Northern Futures website

Images: Northern Rail


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