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Revitalise the north – don’t make it quicker to escape

Public investment: jobs created, facilities improved, recession tackled- surely it’s no bad thing. It’s the antidote to austerity we’ve all pleaded for. As Keynes once said, “the government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up”. So, whether its high speed rail or hole digging, public investment in any shape or form is the best way to get us out of this mess – surely? Coming from Leeds, that was my opinion of HS2 – initially.

The second phase of High Speed Two, expected to be constructed by 2033, will branch out to northern cities such as Manchester and Sheffield – and yes, Leeds. This will of course benefit long-distance commuters; people in professional, middle class jobs who’ll find the length of their journey times cut.

It will not, however, immediately benefit those northern towns and cities still ruined by decades of deindustrialisation. Yet again, this Tory-led government, and sadly the Labour party, have their priorities all wrong.

It is essential that the next Labour government finds more relevant ways to invest in the north. Pre-Thatcher, northern cities were a hub of manufacturing and engineering from both sides of the Pennines to the dockyards of Tyneside and Liverpool. Over the last few decades, however, whole communities have been destroyed by deindustrialisation leaving generations of unemployment and underemployment. For these communities, HS2 bears no immediate importance; our bread and butter issues would better be solved by building affordable and green social housing.

Certainly, we should aim to match the rail standards enjoyed in other European countries – but investing in high speed rail links alone is not a guarantee of economic success. Spain has a stronger network than Germany, after all. It is no surprise to any of us that there are parts of the UK, especially near planned HS2 stations, that are in dire straits. Is it right that we should juxtapose these expensive, high tech trains with communities where people will probably never afford a trip to London?

Our first priority should be public investment – but in manufacturing, social housing and local transport links. What the Labour party needs to fight for is not austerity-lite, but bold projects that are essential to get the north, and indeed the whole country, back on its feet. Maybe then, when people are in decent employment, with money in their pockets – not to mention when fares are back at affordable levels – it will be time to start thinking about high speed rail.

4 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    “This will of course benefit long-distance commuters”

    You called it right, Megan – just think of the MPs wanting to dash back to ‘second’ homes in London following unavoidable engagements in their constituencies.

  2. Gary Elsby says:

    Scrap HS2 and replace it with a water transport system from Scotland to Dover.

    We need their water they want to sell it to us.
    It would transport much needed water to drought hit areas and farmland when needed and end higher crop prices at water scarce times.
    Houses bulit in floodplains destroyed by the extra rainfall we sometimes have would be eradicated and insurance claims into the £bns passed onto others would end.

    Built on the proposed HS2 route and linked into all problem areas, this capital project would possibly cost the same and create just as many jobs and it would end the disasters we are seeing all to often in the news.

  3. Robert says:

    What no water from wales….It’s our oil

  4. Gary Elsby says:

    Quite, Robert.

    Droughts will come to this wet and sodden Island this summer as sure as eggs are eggs.

    Floods will also come to this drought hit island as sure as Labour will support Trident.

    The problem is that we have droughts when we need floods and floods when we need droughts.
    We have all the ingredients for a comedy farce, but not necessarily in the right order.
    It costs you, me and everyone else in out 60m population a fortune in high crop-shop prices and over inflated insurance quotes.

    Successive Governments fail to act on an annual basis and every five years.
    They will act on Trident and HS2 and spend £30bn on each project, even though we have no use for either.

    Bring water to where we need it from those who have abundances and wish to sell and take away water from those who don’t want it.

    Same money, same route, same job creation.
    (Labour Party manifersto 2015)

    Gary Elsby
    (expelled member)
    ‘No aims and values consistent with parachuting losers into safe seats’

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