Katherine Forster

The north-south divide is growing deeper

As a Yorkshire lass living in London I’m struck by the difference in transport provision between the north and south of the UK. Put simply, they feel like different countries. Taking a train from my home in west London into town, I ride on shiny, modern trains (if they aren’t cancelled that is, or on strike – thanks Southern!). Taking a train from Leeds to my home town of Harrogate, I ride in rolling stock that’s had a hard life; noisy and old. King’s Cross and St Pancras stations seem to me places of architectural wonder. Not so Leeds station.

Similarly, I’ve driven from Leeds to Manchester via the bleakly beautiful M62 motorway (the highest in the UK near Saddleworth Moor) more times than I care to remember. It’s congested and subject to frequent closures. The cities are only 45 miles apart but of course there are the immoveable Pennines in between. In Europe, roads often go straight through the mountains – last year, as our family drove to Italy, we gave up counting tunnels somewhere around the number 50.

So I was excited to hear that Transport for the North (TfN) have announced ambitious plans to transform transport across the North of England. Projects include a Trans-Pennine road tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester and a new rail line between Manchester and Leeds via Bradford. Trains are planned to travel at up to 125 miles per hour between the six biggest northern cities.

A Trans-Pennine tunnel is great news. If it ever happens that is. Aye, there’s the rub. My excitement was sadly short-lived when I learnt that this is a plan for public consultation until April, and a final plan will be put to the government later this year for consideration.

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