Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Massive boost to rail services brings Northern Powerhouse to life

Duh, have I missed something?

To sustain “our” capital city, London gets:

  1. HS1 (to link to the continent – onward links North were abandoned years ago)
  2. HS2 (to bring commuters in from the South Midlands)
  3. Crossrail 1 (to link East West)
  4. Crossrail 2 (to link North South)
  5. Various improvements/extensions to London Underground
  6. Mega-laneing of the M25
  7. Heathrow 3 (or some equivalent once Dave has got his inconveniently anti-Heathrow mayor installed in City Hall)

In the North we are to believe that the Northern Poorhouse will be “brought to life” by a “massive boost to rail services”. This must mean new tracks, high-speed lines (HS62/HS3?) “connecting the Great Cities of the North”, new high-speed trains, better stations,  …

Er, No. This Government Website Headline is more like a Tory Central Office Propaganda headline.

So what will we see when we dig below the headline (ref: BBC News Website, 9 December 2015 : New rail franchise deals bring northern train improvement promise – notice how the BBC headline contrasts with government’s)?

  • The introduction of 500 new carriages. [let’s wait to see if theses are hand-me downs from when services in the South are electrified – those carriages have to go somewhere. The specifics for my line talk about a minimum of 10 services each way will operate as “Northern Connect” services, operated by fully refurbished trains – which makes me wonder about what we will have on the other services – partially refurbished?]
  • The outdated and unpopular Pacer trains would also be phased out. [These are the infamous cattle trucks – a bus body on a wagon chassis – that shake rattle and roll their way around the North either baking or freezing its passengers but always ensuring that they are cramped and in a draft]
  • Free wi-fi on TransPennine Express services and stations by July 2018, and on Northern Rail services and 36 stations (out of 464) by December 2019 [wow! wi-fi on a few services and at about 1 in 9 stations]
  • £55m of investment to improve stations [will not go far across the 464 stations managed by Northern Rail or the 30 stations managed by TransPennine Express – a lick of paint, replace the leaking windows, repair the roof, upgrade the toilets (where they exist) and just possibly make some of the stations wheelchair accessible. ]
  • A new direct Liverpool to Glasgow service from December 2018 [You mean there isn’t one?]
  • Additional services from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh from December 2017
  • Doubling the number of Manchester to Newcastle services, and running more daily services to Hull from Manchester and Leeds, both from December 2017 [May reduce overcrowding – is seat capacity being doubled?]

And this will bring the Northern Powerhouse “to life” – according to the authors of the Government Press Release, The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP and The Rt Hon George Osborne MP? (yes, them) This is the announcement of “new rail franchises”, not a cardio-vascular shock to the Northern Economy!

I am not sure whether I am more offended by the presumption of the press release or the paucity of the improvements on offer.

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One thought on “Massive boost to rail services brings Northern Powerhouse to life

  1. I also read today’s instalment of ‘The Northern Powerhouse Chronicles’ and among other things noticed the Liverpool to Glasgow service to be introduced in 3 years time. My first thought was ‘So why has Wigan NW (my local station) to Liverpool been electrified at all?’ The service between the two stations hasn’t improved significantly, even with those not so shiny, not so new electric units cast off from the prosperous south. So now there is a complete electrified line between Liverpool and Glasgow/Edinburgh, why wait 3 years to use it?

    It hasn’t happened yet, and thankfully nothing has come of the rumours, but I had heard that there was a plot to make Preston the first stop on the fast version of the Euston to Scotland trains, and miss out Warrington/Wigan completely. This would enable the government to boast a 5-10 minute cut in the travel time to the centre of the universe from Preston (and the other way of course, but that’s not really important in the grand scheme of things). The fact that thousands of people would be inconvenienced to gain this precious time would simple be ‘collateral’. This would also affect many people from Bolton who use Wigan to get anywhere useful because most services from Bolton are diabolical.

    And of course we mustn’t forget the great HS2 to revolutionise the north. However, nobody seems to have noticed that to use HS2 to get from Manchester to Leeds, they would need to go via Birmingham.

    The excitement and anticipation is just enthralling me.

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