More than 25 million people use cross-Pennine rail routes every year, and over a third of passengers have to stand during their commute.
By 2025 the Deputy Prime Minister 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.
One of the key things that comes up time and again is the need for better transport links – electrification for the rail networks connecting Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, renovation of the dilapidated commuter lines. That is why I am pushing for a huge programme of transport improvements in the North to begin immediately.
The suggestions and ideas we have had will be debated at the Northern Futures Summit in Leeds today, and I will turn as much as I can into swift action.
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.
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.
As we negotiate over what gets government funding in the Autumn Statement, one of my key priorities will be to change that. We need to get this started as soon as possible.
I want a fully upgraded and electrified network between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield by 2025.
We also need to improve commuter services on lines that are not electrified. I want significant improvement – government money to buy better rolling stock to improve commuter routes in the north – also by 2025.
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.
This is not just about rail. 64% of journeys in the North are by car. We need to build on the announcements already made to improve road links such as the M62. I want to go further, starting by extending the full stretch of the M62 between Manchester and Leeds to 8 lanes using the “smart” motorway model (that is, turning the hard shoulder into a fourth lane in each direction), and having a programme of improvements for the Woodhead Pass (A618/A626) between Manchester and Sheffield. I will push to see these in the upcoming Roads Investment Strategy for completion by 2025.