It was brass-necked of the Prime Minister to come to York to announce his broken promise on Rail. York will be a loser with his, so called, Integrated Rail Plan. Imagine, you have just returned from a global summit of world leaders about the climate emergency. Sent to keep 1.5°C alive and leaving it on life support, with a prediction of a catastrophic 2.4°C increase in global temperature. Now with a mandate to do everything to stop the global south sinking under the melting ice cap waters or scorching land so it can no longer produce a crop.
His response, to keep road building and cut public transport routes. Could anything be more climate illiterate? 31% of emissions in the UK are generated from transport. We need trains that entice passenger and freight off the roads and onto rail.
Not everywhere was cut. The South continues to receive 3.3 times more rail funding than we do, here in Yorkshire. Northern Powerhouse Rail was the North’s Crossrail. If it is good enough for London, why not for the North? Leeds to Manchester is the same length as London Underground’s Piccadilly Line, and yet the ironically named ‘express’ route will now be the only means of getting across the hills.
Many of us know how packed those trains can be, yet even with disruptive rail engineering works, sending us on coaches for large stretches of the journey for months on end, the challenging engineering around the tunnels will not release the rail capacity necessary to scale up to facilitate a Northern Powerhouse.
If anything, the Integrated Rail Plan will simply draw more wealth and investment into London, Birmingham and the South, leaving the North further behind, with a new East – West divide, as the North West is served with two new high-speed rail routes as we lose out.
So rail times will be 53 minutes longer to Birmingham than promised, 14 longer to London, 4 to Manchester and even 2 to Leeds with removing the new rail routes. But the plan was never just about speed, but capacity and connectivity. Labour set out the most progressive rail programme for a generation at the General Election last, and the most climate friendly integrated transport plan in history. I was proud to have been the Shadow Rail Minister leading this work.
Getting lorries off the road, the lorries we cannot find drivers for, is essential to cutting emissions. Now with Brexit causing significant logistic challenges, it demonstrates just how crucial those plans were.
I know HS2 divided the crowd. It was very poorly run, massively over budget, and it ploughed through swathes of sensitive countryside and magnificent ancient woodland. With political leadership, all these issues could have been addressed, and that is why I supported improved connectivity between York and the Midlands, with substantial changes being made. The reason; the stronger the connectivity, the stronger the inward investment. This means more good quality jobs for York, it means giving people in our city a decent wage and hope for their future. It means people can have a good quality of life. That is why I am in politics and that is why I will not wave the white flag because this Government have abandoned the North, it is why I will make the case ever stronger for better rail links to our city – North to Newcastle and Scotland, South to Sheffield and Birmingham, East to Hull and all destinations West.
This week, I am arguing that the Headquarters of the Great British Railways should be in York. I am making the case, in my own debate, for Government to invest in BioYorkshire, York’s own Green New Deal. I have a question with the Cabinet Secretary on Friday about bringing jobs to York. Every day I am fighting for your future. Every day I work to give everyone in York opportunity; decent pay, value and job satisfaction, so the talent of our city and the fulfilment of work can be realised.
Being connected is the start of that conversation. While the Tories have walked away from the North, only interested in themselves, Labour is fighting hard for your future. It is in our name – Labour – it is what we do and what we believe.