It's time to get serious about Crossrail for the north

A petition organised by IPPR North calling for more money for transport in the north has attracted over 52,000 signatures and support continues to grow, writes Paul Dimoldenberg.

Support for IPPR North’s petition calling for more money to be spent on transport in the north is going from strength. The petition calls on the secretary of state for transport to take a number of immediate steps to improve transport in the region, including: 

  • Pledging his immediate backing for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme including a new state-of-the-art 30-minute rail link between Manchester and Leeds – a ‘Crossrail North’;
  • Making an immediate commitment to at least £59bn ‘catch-up cash’ over the coming decade to support the transport priorities being developed by Transport for the North; 
  • Giving Transport for the North the same powers as those enjoyed by Transport for London so that it can also raise private finance towards its own transport priorities.

The petition needs to be the start of a relentless campaign for Northern Powerhouse Rail. The north needs to organise and campaign as a single economic entity if it is to secure the government funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail. In Transport for the North we have a strong body and a clear message - this message now needs to be amplified from across the north. The North cannot rely on anything other than its own efforts making the case with facts and figures, passion and a relentless, single-minded campaign.

Last November, we helped our clients Addleshaw Goddard, Atkins and Grant Thornton to draw together over 100 northern-based businesses and to create the report Unlocking Growth in the North.

What we now need is a relentless, focussed and effective campaign to force Northern Powerhouse Rail on to the national political agenda and to keep it there until government agrees to the necessary funding and powers to make it happen.

The campaign needs to be led by a private/public sector partnership with cross-party support and reaching out beyond the narrow confines of Westminster and Whitehall.

The Northern Powerhouse Rail campaign should be the beating heart of the UK’s post-Brexit future, bringing new opportunities, new promise and new hope for many northern communities.  Importantly, it will need to be one clear message echoed by a thousand voices.

Paul Dimoldenberg is the chairman of Quatro, a public relations and political communications consultancy for the planning, property and energy sectors.