'We need more road and rail cash so people ditch London and head north', say Hull MPs
By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 8 Nov 2017
Travel in Hull and London is “a tale of two cities” with “unsustainable” traffic delays and polluting trains, say Hull MPs.
City MPs used a debate in Parliament to highlight the funding gap between train and road travel in the Capital versus the experience in the north of England.
Diana Johnson, MP for Hull North, said creating better transport links in cities like Hull could help take "the pressure off" London by encouraging start-up businesses to base themselves elsewhere.
Emma Hardy, the Hull West and Hessle MP, told ministers she was shocked to discover that London benefited from clean electric rail when, at the same time, the Government was telling her constituents it must continue to use diesel trains.
In November 2016, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced that the privately-financed electrification project between Hull and Selby was to be scrapped.
Instead, new bi-modal trains, able to switch between diesel and electric power, will serve the line in the future, meaning even the upgraded vehicles will emit fumes as they pull in and out of Hull Paragon Interchange.
Diesel-powered trains will continue to serve Hull Paragon Interchange for the considerable future, under current Government plans
Ms Hardy said the experience was starkly different for London commuters – something she’d encountered since being elected to Westminster in June.
“There are no noisy engines spewing out diesel fumes in London – a conscious decision has been made to save the people of London from these polluting, deafening trains and give them greener, faster trains,” said the Labour MP.
“Meanwhile, a conscious decision has been made to leave the slow and polluting trains here in the north. Clearly, little evidence of the best of times for northerners.”
The former teacher said the continued use of diesel trains would “make it difficult” for Hull City Council to reduce emissions – despite the Government putting pressure on it to do so.
CAMPAIGNING: Hull West and Hessle MP Emma Hardy sought reassurances about the Castle Street upgrade
Diana Johnson , the Hull North MP who instigated the two-and-a-half hour debate, quoted figures showing the discrepancy in investment between Yorkshire and the Humber and London.
The Yorkshire region received £190 per person in transport investment last year – 10 times less than in the Capital, where travellers see £1,940 per head spent, she said.
Ms Johnson urged the Government to “rebalance the economy” by investing more money into Hull’s infrastructure.
“There are immense economic gains to be realised if we plug the gap in regional inequality and investment,” said the Labour backbencher.
“It is the national interest that the north – for our tax payers, our fare payers and our businesses – should get the fair share of investment that it deserves.”
She argued that improving travel times across the country was “about taking pressure off London” by allowing people to settle elsewhere.
“In the digital age, many industries no longer need to be close to the South East,” said the senior city MP.
Ms Johnson demanded that the Transport Secretary, who did not attend the debate, reinstate his support for major electrification upgrades, including the Hull to Selby stretch.
Both Ms Johnson and Ms Hardy called for the Government to press on with the much-delayed improvements to the “infamous” Castle Street junction of the A63.
Diana Johnson MP wants more transport spending for Hull and the rest of the north (Image: Katie Pugh)
Traffic on the city centre road, with 47,000 journeys taking place on it every day, was “unsustainable”, said Ms Hardy, and told MPs how there were often “significant delays to journeys, at a significant cost to businesses using the road”.
Pressure from Ms Hardy has seen the building of a pedestrian bridge over the A63 moved forward to 2018, but the £250million road upgrade will not commence until 2020.
Junior transport minister, Jesse Norman, replying to the MPs, said it was unfair to compare London’s transport spending with specific northern regions, given the Capital’s networks faced 11 times the burden of Manchester’s at rush hour.
The Local Transport Minister said: “We are working so hard to overcome these decades of underinvestment.
“We are investing in road and rail. We want to transform journeys and give the capacity the north needs to flourish.”
Ms Johnson, wrapping up the debate, accused the minister of reading out a “pre-prepared speech”.
“I don’t think he listened to the points of the debate,” she said.