Hilary Benn - Leeds Central MP: The North is short-changed

LET'S GET ON TRACK: Electrification is vital for improving journey times, says Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn.
LET'S GET ON TRACK: Electrification is vital for improving journey times, says Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn.
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Investing in the things we need to keep the Leeds economy fit for the future is absolutely vital.

Nowhere is this more important than in transport, and yet two recent announcements have told us a great deal about what is wrong with the current system.

First of all, the Transport Secretary said that he could no longer guarantee to electrify the whole of the railway line between Leeds and Manchester.

This is bad news as electrification is really important for improving journey times.

Anyone who travels regularly between Leeds and Manchester knows that it takes around 55 minutes and you usually have to wait outside Piccadilly station for a platform to become available.

This is simply not good enough to travel the 40 or so miles between two major economic centres.

And then, in almost the next breath, we heard that the Government will be supporting Crossrail 2 in London which will cost an estimated £30bn.

I don’t begrudge the capital investment in its rail infrastructure, but there has to be some balance and at the moment the north is quite simply being shortchanged.

An analysis done by the think tank IPPR North found that £1,943 is spent per person in London on current or future transport projects, compared with an average of £427 per person in the North of England. That’s four times as much.

It’s not right and it must change.

But we need to do something else, and that is to take control so that in future we can make more of these decisions for ourselves.

Devolution is much more than just a word. It’s about passing power and money down to local communities. Quite simply, if we had the tools, we could do a better job whether it is making sure we have the right skills, building the homes we require or giving our city a modern and efficient transport system.

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