Government sounds positive note for the north – with a difference

Seaforth Container Terminal

Theresa May's secretary of state for transport, Chris Grayling, has indicated the new government will continue a commitment to infrastructure in the north of England, with a subtle shift. In what appeared to be a carefully worded statement during a visit to the North West on Friday, Grayling made clear that investment in the north will be maintained, but as part of a policy aimed at treating every area of the country the same way rather than a rebalancing in favour of the north.

Grayling made his statement during a visit to the £225m A6 Manchester Airport Relief Road, which is due to open in October 2017, before moving on to view progress with Peel Ports' new £300m Seaforth Container Terminal in Liverpool.

"The major investment we are making in transport across the North West will improve journeys for local people as well as helping industry grow across the region. This is part of our plan to invest in the north, and make an economy that works for everyone – not just the privileged few – by ensuring economic prosperity is spread throughout the country. Better infrastructure is likely to boost productivity," Grayling said

Both visits were timed to show the Conservative government's investment in the economies of Manchester and Liverpool. Peel Ports’ Chief Executive Mark Whitworth said: "We very much welcome the minister’s interest, which maintains the government’s support for our efforts to facilitate UK trade through this key cargo gateway. The timing of the visit is particularly opportune given the recent arrival of the first containers at the port during our marine trials. With full opening now imminent, we will soon be able to offer companies ship-to-door access to the heart of the UK market via the biggest container ships in the world."

The government statement also said that work continues with the Transport for the North authority to find ways of improving the region's transport network to support business and growth. But there was no mention of the Northern Powerhouse policy, which is now being played down to show no single area will be prioritised over another.

During the A6 Relief Road visit Grayling announced government will give £4m to support Cheshire East Council's plans to develop a Middlewich Eastern Bypass. However, this is one four schemes that Grayling announced government will support with development funding. The others are a major new crossing of the River Yar in Great Yarmouth, a bridge dualling in Worcester and a new junction on the M11 in Essex.