Transport Secretary Grant Shapps responds to the YEP's invite to visit Leeds to get our city out of the slow lane
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has responded to the Yorkshire Evening Post's plea to come and visit Leeds to look at the city's transport woes first hand.
Writing to this title he has pledged to accept our invitation to visit Leeds and find out what improvements are needed to keep our great city moving to ensure it's not left in the slow lane for the next decade.
And he also accepts in his letter that Yorkshire "has been one of the regions work hit by decades of underinvestment".
"When I took on the job as Transport Secretary this summer, it was as a frustrated commuter.
"Taking six trains a day for years, often delayed or cancelled, I saw first-hand that the performance across the UK’s rail network was totally unacceptable. I know the problems faced by commuters on Northern and Transpennine Express eclipse my own experiences and I’m already taking steps to address these impacts. While I can’t promise these issues will be resolved quickly,
"I’ve made it my priority to get the trains to run on time and bring our railways into the 21st century. So I’m delighted to take up your gauntlet and confirm that I’m visiting Leeds in January. I plan to see for myself the investment going into public transport, including almost £174m through the Leeds Public Transport Improvement Programme. But more importantly I want to hear about the crucial improvements that must be made to keep this great city moving.
"Between 2014 and 2024, we will have invested £1.2bn in the biggest upgrade of the East Coast Main Line in a generation which is set to create capacity for up to 10,000 extra seats a day on long-distance services, see faster journeys and improve reliability for passengers.
"The arrival of the state-of-the-art Azuma trains along the East Coast earlier this year was another step forward in one of the biggest transformations on the railway, including new direct services to Harrogate making commuting easier. And major improvements to Leeds station are being made including capacity enhancements – a new platform, track and upgraded signalling to improve services.
"The £20m southern entrance at Leeds railway station links directly to the growing South Bank area of the city, connecting 20,000 travellers to one of the North’s most vibrant cities. And that’s alongside our commitment to fund the Leeds-Manchester leg of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will cut journey times and provide additional capacity, boosting connectivity across the North.
"But I make no bones about this: Yorkshire has been one of the regions worst hit by decades of underinvestment. Following Beeching, the railway was ripped up including crucial routes to Ripon and Skipton. In fact, abandoned routes still ribbon right across the region.
"When they were proposed, the Beeching cuts were called a way to make railways pay, but it is towns and communities that have paid the price. Our modern railway system is simply not up to scratch. That’s why we are making it a priority to invest in the vital infrastructure needed to level up access to opportunities across the country, and why we have pledged half a billion pounds to start reopening axed rail lines.
"Fundamentally, I want to lead a Department that listens and that’s why we’ve launched the first comprehensive review of the railway in a generation. The Williams Review has a clear commitment from the Department for Transport to put passengers at the heart of the railway, provide value for taxpayers and deliver economic and social benefits across Britain. I also know that the railways need accountability, so we will end the complicated franchising model and create a simpler, more effective, less fragmented rail system.
"But this is about more than trains. We are working to upgrade the M62 between Leeds and Manchester and beyond and have helped fund the Bradford-Leeds Cycle Superhighway - the longest continuous route of its kind in the UK. Our Transforming Cities Fund also seeks to make transport smarter – reducing congestion and making journeys greener, cheaper and more reliable by developing innovative public transport schemes in some of England’s biggest cities. Watch this space.
"We saw last week an unprecedented number of votes for the Conservative Party across the North, and the Prime Minister has made clear he’s determined to repay that trust, to show that we meant what we said in our manifesto. I’ll soon be up in Leeds so we can work together on these issues."