Wednesday, 12 October 2016

I want to see the M65 extended to the North East .. My LT column

I want to see the M65 extended to the North East connecting millions of people directly to the North West. It’s about the time the North got its fair share of transport funding. It’s about time too that East Lancashire got the connections that would bring greater prosperity.

Across the North, people are desperate for improvements in transport. Families are tired of long journeys to visit their relatives, commuters are sick of unnecessarily draining commutes, and local businesses are fed up with needless hindrances to consumers – hindrances which the government could prevent, if only it properly invested in a comprehensive Northern transport plan.

Instead, the Tories continue to preside over extensive delays, poor road networks and outdated railways. These problems are particularly acute in the Pennines and for commuters travelling between the North West and North East, where a lack of investment can be felt by all those who’ve been stuck on the M65, M62 or M606. The M62 being the only east-west motorway.

The M621 and M606 are in the top four of the slowest motorways in the UK. Average speeds on the latter dropped to a meagre 24.625mph this year – the UK’s lowest – while the M62 recorded a dismal average of 39.77mph. By contrast, motorways connecting London are thriving, with the M40, M4 and M1 being the top three fastest motorways of 2016.

The government is prioritising the South to the detriment of investment in Northern motorways and major roads. As a result, congestion is deteriorating and commuters are faced with increased journey times. This means that areas of deprivation are being prevented from accessing centres of opportunity – a development which is both socially undesirable and economically illiterate.

To combat this, the government must act quickly and address the disparity in transport infrastructure between the South and North of England. Transport for the North’s own report of Spring 2016 recognised that ‘the number, capacity, and reliability of east-west road connections are seen as a constraint on the Northern economy’

Instead of promoting glamour projects, the government must heed IPPR’s advice and take advantage of record low government borrowing costs to connect the North East with the North West. The government should not focus exclusively on the need for railway improvements but should instead plan holistically and incorporate an overhaul road networks in the Pennines into its strategy.

It’s about time East Lancashire and the North more broadly are better connected.