Andy Burnham: Train services in the North poorer since Northern Powerhouse promised

Artist impression of a HS2 train.
Credit: PA Images

Train services in the North have got poorer in the 10 years since the Northern Powerhouse was promised, according to Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

Speaking at the Transport for the North annual conference in Liverpool, he joined other leaders in calling for a better approach to transport.

Mr Burnham said they needed to do “something different to what we did in the last decade.

“It’s 10 years this year since George Osborne came to Manchester and promised a Northern Powerhouse. That was going to mean HS2, HS3, as it was then called, now Northern Powerhouse Rail, better everyday services on the existing network.

“You name it, we were going to be promised all of this.

Mayor Greater Manchester Andy Burnham Credit: PA Images

“Barely any of it has happened. In fact, new analysis that TfGM (Transport for Greater Manchester) has done says that rail services are poorer now than they were in 2016.”

“This general election year, I think, lands at an uncomfortable moment for a Government that promised to level up because we have proof that railways have gone backwards in the decade since George Osborne made that speech.

“It’s almost unbelievable.”

In October last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cancelled the plan to extend HS2 between the West Midlands and Manchester amid spiralling costs.

Last week, Mr Burnham and his West Midlands counterpart Andy Street met Transport Secretary Mark Harper to discuss privately funded alternatives to a scrapped section of HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester.

Mr Burnham said there would be a meeting of the private sector project group on Wednesday and there was “momentum” behind the plan.

He said: “Unless we improve Manchester to Birmingham productivity and capacity we’re going to have transport headaches for the rest of this century.”

Metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram told the conference he had written to the transport minister to seek a guarantee that any future northern rail network would deliver “the maximum possible benefits for the whole city region”.

Steve Rotheram

He said he had called for assurances that plans for a new Liverpool to Manchester line would reduce disruption to Liverpool Lime Street station – as the conference heard one proposal would see the city’s main station disrupted for between one and three years.

Speaking about the decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2, Mr Rotheram said: “What message does that send about the North? That we are somehow worth less than people in the South? That the UK is not serious about being a place to invest or do business in or that the Government simply doesn’t care that Victorian infrastructure is holding back the North?”

He added: “Maybe the Prime Minister should travel across the North on the train.”

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