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Saturday, August 20, 2022

How Boris scored a £96bn own goal

Unveiled last week, “the largest public investment ever in the UK rail network” has been determined to be almost universal. So what went wrong?

Boris Johnson toured the north of England in parallel with the announcement of the Integrated Rail PlaN

The most notable element in last week’s combined train program was the reception she received. Here the government pledged a huge £ 96 billion investment in railways, in a plan they accurately called ‘the largest public investment ever in the UK’s rail network’. .

I can not think of another example of a news story so good by nature that it has become such a PR disaster.

So what went wrong? The answer does not lie in the contents of the plan, which, although it has flaws and limitations as detailed below, is overall reasonably positive and coherent. This is the kind of show that would have come out of nowhere for the first time last week, would have received rave reviews.

No, the explanation is elsewhere, especially at the door of No. 10 Downing Street. Perpetual sunlight then leaves it to others to explain the arrival of the moonlight. ”

It makes sense in politics to give few promises and provide too much. The prime minister, who acquired the mocking nickname of Barty Booster, developed a habit of doing just the opposite. It seems he can not resist. He wants to deliver good news and be loved. Not all of us? But most of us have a laid back attitude when it comes to painting a picture about ourselves.

Most recently at the Tory Party conference last month, he reiterated his commitment to a full Northern Powerhouse train, the center of which, a new high-speed line between Leeds and Manchester, has now been cut.

Perhaps because he has a short-lived infamous attention span, he expects others to forget his optimistic promises. And people will have to be very forgetful. Most recently at last month’s Tory Party conference, he reiterated his commitment to a full Northern Powerhouse train, the center of which, a new high-speed line between Leeds and Manchester, has now been cut.

For Tory MPs, this is just the last chance they have been led up the hill and down again. The publication of the train show comes fiery following Johnson’s huge unforeseen mistake, when he clumsily tried to get his friend Owen Patterson out of corruption, but almost overnight managed to reattach the word contempt to the series, causing damage by – elections, and running a feeding frenzy In the media, which three weeks later, shows few signs of decline.

The new Red Wall titles are furious that they went to a dirty vote to try to save Patterson, only to have the prime minister make a screaming U-turn less than 24 hours later, and the veteran guard is furious that they now had a spotlight illuminating their second job and may have to give up On them. The arrival of the train plan, which backed slightly from previous promises, was the catalyst to explode in anger.

The Labor opposition called the show a “big train robbery” and the tabloids called it a “gamble.” Under normal circumstances, there is no chance that these lines would have stuck or even been tried. Just to remind you, we are talking about spending £ 96 billion. But the criticism sticks to the original price tag of £ 185 billion.

So let’s look at the plan. It is certainly unfortunate, and in my opinion a mistake, that the promised high-speed line between Manchester and Leeds has been closed, and this is responsible for much of the local anger. It is particularly unfortunate that Bradford, the seventh largest city in the UK, which has poor train network connectivity, will not now get its new station.

Despite this, the plan does guarantee a new 33-minute journey time between Leeds and Manchester, a drop from the current 55, and only 12 minutes between Bradford and Leeds.

Like Bradford, Leeds is seen as the big loser, not only with the loss of Manchester’s new fast line but also with the decision to turn HS2’s east leg into a stump that ends at East Midlands Parkway.

I note by the way that Edward Lee, a Gaysborough Tory MP, not a fan of HS2, described the new arrangement as a “white elephant with a missing leg”. It is not clear to me whether he is for or against amputation.

More seriously, Andrew Adonis, Labor’s transport minister who kicked the whole thing, suggested the decision to expand HS2 to Manchester but not Leeds means “England’s economic geography could be seriously distorted” as a result.

There is also a legitimate concern that the ongoing cut of HS2 further distances it from the original concept and makes it less and less sustainable as a result. We have continuously lost the connection between HS1 and HS2 via Camden or below it which would have allowed, for example, through journeys from Edinburgh to Paris (although I understand there is some squeaky network north of London that can still allow this), spur to Heathrow, and now the eastern leg to Leeds.

HS2 was mismanaged and far exceeded budget. Too many redundant consultants were employed and far too many middle-class people paid over £ 100,000 a year

HS2 was mismanaged and far exceeded budget. There were far too many redundant consultants employed and too many middle class people paid over £ 100,000 a year. It is not surprising that the Treasury has lost patience.

There is also some validity to the view presented by Transport Secretary Grant Schaps that the high-speed trains traveling on conventional lines east of East Midlands Parkway would actually allow better service to places like Huddersfield Wakefield than was the case. As part of previous programs.

Leeds herself will benefit in other ways. There are guaranteed upgrades to the East Coast Main Line that will reduce up to 25 minutes of travel time. If this can be achieved, it is an incredible gain.

The electrification of every Midland center is back on the table, as it really should be. It was put into Network Rail’s forward plans around 2011 by Theresa Willier and I when we were singing in the Department of Transportation before it was removed by Chris “Failing” Grailing. In total we are guaranteed 180 miles of new electrified line, including the entire TransPennine main line from Manchester to York.

And the commitment to a light rail program for Leeds and West Yorkshire, but very welcome, is the largest city in Western Europe without a mass transit system. Here’s another stopping improvement. This was first promised under Blair’s Labor government, before a plug was cut on it and all other planned light rail plans. Then came the Trolibus program that I inherited in 2010 and decided pragmatically to continue with it, even though it was far from ideal. After the end of the coalition, this too continued. Let’s hope this new plan stays.

There is also good news in the cargo program. An improved dimensional space on the TransPennine route will for the first time allow shipping containers to move along this route and beyond it on railcars. Additional rails will double or even double the capacity along certain sections, allow room for cargo and allow high-speed trains to overtake the slower trains. And what electricity plans mean is the ability to move chargers to much longer distances with electricity instead of diesel.

Of course there are drawbacks to the program. Aside from the loss of the new lines to Bradford and Leeds and the impact on the viability of HS2, there must be a real concern that choosing instead to upgrade existing lines will lead to years of disruptions and bonanza to the bus industry to replace the train. Upgrading the West Coast main line under the recent Labor government has affected services for years and turned out to be very costly.

The CBI, in an exceptionally honest response, said that “areas most in need of development will lose out as a result of the reduced plans.”

The CBI, in an exceptionally honest response, said that “areas most in need of development will lose out as a result of the scaled-down plans.” In other words, the rise in levels is being undermined. They also accused the government of moving the gateposts at eleven o’clock. Maybe that was the explanation for the prime minister’s self-goal? Still, at least the front pages have not been moved this time by Owen Patterson’s unhelpful badgers.

Meanwhile the Treasury, which has become increasingly concerned about what it sees as spending out of control of trains and which is largely responsible for cutting the original £ 185 billion plan, was really surprised that the £ 96 billion plan landed so badly. I note that the cunning chancellor is nowhere to be seen when it comes to exposing the plan.

So yes, the plan is a backlash from Johnson’s original feeling promises, but the improvements that have now been revealed are real that are definitely worth accepting. What Network Rail and the rail industry need to do now is provide these improvements over time and within budget. They have. I fear there is another way to go if we look, for example, at the escape costs of HS2 and £ 40 million to reopen the Oakhampton line, where the railway was already in place and carried not only freight but until recently also passengers like me. Sunday prayers .

About the Author: Norman Baker Served as Minister of Transportation from May 2010 to October 2013. He was a Member of Parliament for Loves’ Blood-Blood Parliament from 1997 to 2015.

This story appears in the latest issue of Passenger transport.

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