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Make sure Tyne and Wear not left behind by "Transport for the North" demand Lib Dems

August 23, 2017 6:25 PM
As Northern city leaders meet for a summit in Leeds, North East Liberal Democrats have warned North East Labour leaders that they need to speak more clearly about the region's transport priorities if they are to secure greater funding from Government to address the region's transport infrastructure spending shortfall.
There are legitimate concerns that the region is being left behind as major initiatives such as Crossrail 2 advance in London, and other major Northern cities press for the Government to review its decision to suspend the electrification of the key Trans-Pennine route between Leeds and Manchester.
Newcastle Opposition transport spokesman Cllr Greg Stone has endorsed recent comments by the NECC expressing frustration that whilst Northern Labour politicians have "turned up the volume" on demanding a fairer deal on funding, there is more "noise" than "signal" when it comes to clarity on key priorities for delivery.
He has warned that the North East could once again be left standing on the platform if the new "Transport for the North" strategic body puts improvements on the M62 corridor linking Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Hull ahead of greater connectivity for Tyne and Wear, and has questioned whether HS3 for the North is deliverable before 2050.
The North East is still waiting for the Government to deliver on the promised upgrade of the A1 in Northumberland, and there is no sign that improvements on the A69 and A66 will happen any time soon. There are a number of rail projects on the wish list , including the Ashington and Blyth line, and freight loops to free up East Coast Main Line capacity between Newcastle and Northallerton. However, the region is in danger of being outmuscled on the important new Transport for the North body. It is likely to face competing demands from the major conurbations of Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, and South Yorkshire, which are all likely to score more highly than the North East on DfT funding methodology given higher population density and economic impact potential.
Cllr Stone said:
"It is frustrating that the Government appears to be backing away from its pledge to electrify the Leeds-Manchester route, which would have upgraded a key section of the North's rail network and improved connections between its major cities, including Newcastle, and I hope that the Northern leaders can persuade the Transport Secretary to reconsider.
It is understandable that city leaders are calling for the North to get a fair share of transport spending, but it is crucial that the North East comes to an agreement on what its priorities are. The North East's Labour leadership needs to be much clearer about what it wants in the shorter term.
Whilst I would love to see a future HS3 system linking major Northern cities at high speed, I question whether this is achievable this side of 2050, not least because radical engineering solutions are required for the Pennine crossing. In my view the top priority should be securing a deal on the replacement of Metro, which needs to happen before 2020 if serious serviceability problems are to be avoided.
We know that the region's Labour leaders are always happy to pick a fight with Conservative ministers and will always want more money, but NECA is proving less than effective when it comes to agreeing regional priorities and getting on with delivering them. It is extraordinary that North East Labour leaders chose to cancel a recent meeting with ministers on the future of Metro, and it suggests they are more concerned with derailing the process than achieving full speed ahead."