Cummings and Northern Goings On

It all sounded so easy when the Tories announced they were going to level up so that ‘The North’ would no longer be at a disadvantage to the south. So far not much levelling up has happened but then again we are living through a badly handled (by the Tories) health crisis/pandemic so they do have some excuse for the lack of anything tangible happening. However, that excuse won’t wash for long.

The other problem is that Johnson’s government seems incapable of handing just about anything well or even for that matter adequately. On that basis there can’t be much confidence that they’ll fix the north/south investment imbalance even when they do actually start doing as opposed to just talking about it.

Jim Hancock has an interesting take on all this. Please have a look what he has to say via this link:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim, as often is the case, gets what’s going on when many other commentators flounder. Not only that but he’s capable of putting it all down in understandable words; he’s part of a dying breed in journalism sadly.

I agree with Jim about Prescott and his wish to bring in regional governance which somewhat fell apart in English terms. I’m no fan of City Region Mayors, I never have been. What with the half-hearted devolution packages handed down when they were foisted upon us and the majority of them not really changing much at all I’d rather be shut of them in favour of proper regional governance via elected assemblies.

Prescott in government was a chap of typical old fashioned Labour hang-ups. On the one hand he had what all but amounted to an approach to this subject that Liberals had been articulating for generations. However, he was also one not to work across political boundaries because all he’d been taught in the insular Labour movement was against working with others who may hold similar views. I guess he was ‘our way or no way’ a view which has bedevilled Labour and stood it firmly against truly progressive politics for generations. Of course he lost his internal battle in the Labour Party over regionalism and having not built any bridges outside of that party his ideas sadly floundered.

I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how Labour can attack others who broadly agree with a policy they are trying to take forward because those others are not 100% backing of the Labour view. Labour has to build coalitions within the party but they won’t build them outside of it and Prescott lost regionalism because of that flawed attitude.

Northern Powerhouse Rail and thoughts about the future of northern towns

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/manchester-26-minutes-london-90-17781826

That we northerners are pretty much all sceptics about investment in the north is probably a given, after all we’ve seen precious little of it for generations and through many governments. So it’s really no surprise when you hear Northern Poorhouse as opposed to the ‘correct’ Powerhouse; folks just don’t trust governments to deliver sustained investment in the north other than a light sprinkling of cash every now and then. Trouble is when government does send sixpence up the M6 some northern political leader gets far too over excited about it and says all kinds of daft over the top things which end up all but justifying the crumbs off the south eastern table of plenty.

Now don’t get me wrong I really do want to see significant sustained investment in the north, although I do fear that concentrating in and on the major cities is a big mistake as towns around the north suffer the greatest problems. The real danger of the present ‘City Region’ concept is that it will suck life out of towns surrounding major cities and concentrate it in major cities and I fear that this is process is already happening ‘up north’. Stripping civil service jobs out of Bootle and putting them in central Liverpool comes to mind.

The reality could end up being a Northern Powerhouse for the cities and Northern Poorhouse for the towns!

Note – The photo at the head of this posting is of a Northern Franchise Class 150 DMU carrying livery in support of Northern Powerhouse Rail. It was seen at Chester Station.

HS2 – It was always going to get the green light

Class 66 Diesel Locos at Seaforth Container Terminal

I’ve been amused by all the chatter about the potential for government to stop HS2 in its tracks when the reality was they were never going to do that.

Yes I know, they held a review of it and made a lot of noise about cost but that was to keep the issue off the political agenda surrounding the General Election. The Tories wanted to be seen to have a foot in the camp of those who oppose HS2. You could say it was cynical political manipulation as that’s what I call it.

HS2 and the associated new line from Liverpool across the north are vital if we want decent passenger and freight carrying railways with capacity because there’s precious little capacity left in the present rail network.

Take Liverpool and it’s expanding port. One of the big issues is that there’s no capacity to get freight to and from that port and it’s because of pretty much the same reason that passenger services east of Liverpool are in a mess. There’s no capacity for the number of trains needed to be run, simple as that.

So do I celebrate High Speed Rail and the associated east west line across the north? Yes I do because it’s a common sense decision that had to be made. My only reservation in this daft process was that government may still be in Brexit mode i.e. doing things without taking account of facts, but maybe they’ve got enough of promoting fantasy land on their plate for now so they gave in to the experts who they studiously ignored over Brexit.

Now we need investment in other lines in the north such as:-

* Ormskirk – Preston:- just hand it over to Merseyrail so they can run trains right through to Preston
* Southport – Wigan- Manchester:- Get it back to being a decent reliable service as it was until the 1960’s
* Burscough Curves:- Reinstate them so there can be trains between Southport and Preston and Ormskirk and Southport

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

Liverpool to Hull by train – Why Northern Poorhouse Rail is not delivering

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/what-trying-hull-back-train-16692052

I still look upon the Northern Powerhouse as a Northern Poorhouse as it seems to be a southern view of what we northerners need or a southern promise which never seems to be properly funded.

The idea of connecting cities from Liverpool to Hull by high speed rail is spot on but it is too oft talked about rather than actually being delivered within a reasonable timescale. The Liverpool Echo article clearly demonstrates the present problems but what we need ‘up north’ is UK Government investment delivered by a decentralised accountable body and we need to get on with it NOW.

Oh and no Burham Bandwagoning over it too please.

Liverpool’s Mayor quits Northern Poorhouse

The BBC has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-46499143

Well, what can I say other than I have never been taken in by the Northern Powerhouse, referred to as Northern Poorhouse by those of us who have always thought it has been nothing more than political spin. So my query is why’s it taken you so long to realise this Joe?

If the appalling rail service offered across the north by Northern Assist has not been enough to show that the Northern Powerhouse is a waste of space, in terms of influencing decisive outcomes, I don’t know what is.

With thanks to Keith Page for the lead to this posting

Transport For the North (TFN) make bold statements on rail but will anything much actually happen?

A Northern Class 158 DMU at York Station

The article is on Transport for the North’s web site – see link below:-

transportforthenorth.com/transport-north-board-takes-decisive-action-future-norths-railways/

A Transpennie Express Class 185 DMU leaving Liverpool Lime Street Station

And why do I continue to hold a skeptical line? Keolis have recently announced that the Liverpool – Chester via Frodsham service, due to start in December, will not now appear until May 2019. This is due, I understand, to “rolling stock availability issues”. Keolis take over the franchise from Arriva Trains Wales (which will run this new service) next month.

With thanks to OPSTA for the lead to this posting