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A transport network ‘on its knees’ is slowly catching up in the north, says Grayling

Chris Grayling has said that rail in the north is playing catch-up from “decades of economic neglect” and that whilst improvements in May did not work the way it should have, he will deliver “the transport system the north deserves.”

Speaking in Manchester, the transport minister apologised for the massive disruption suffered by passengers in May, particularly by those in Greater Manchester, and reiterated the government’s commitment to both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

Grayling said: “Rail’s been much in the news this year, and it’s been a huge frustration for me, and this city in particular has suffered from the massive disruption that’s taken place this year.

“I’m extremely sorry this happened.

“It’s been a huge frustration to all of us that a project for electrification between Blackpool and Manchester, that was designed to bring more services, did not work out in the way it should have done.”

He said that “step by step, we are putting it back into shape,” and reminded the audience at the North of England Transport Summit that, over the next few years, every single train in the north is going to be replaced or refurbished.

The transport secretary stressed that there was a lot of catching up to do, and that eight years in government was a relatively short time for transport.

He said: “In 2010, we didn’t just inherit an economy on its knees. We also inherited a transport network that had been in decline for decades – particularly in the north.

“We have a backlog of maintenance schemes that should have been completed long ago.”

Grayling said that whilst he understood why people are still sceptical about the prospects for better transport, “the worst of the summer is now behind us,” and a big programme of improvement is now taking place across the north.

Grayling also responded to comments from northern MPs by saying that it was not a choice between NPR or HS2, saying that the north needed, and would be getting, both.

He said: “Actually, HS2 is needed to pave the way for NPR, and perhaps the strongest business case for HS2 is delivering better connections to the north.

“Fifty years of transport underinvestment means northern cities don’t just have poor connections to the rest of the UK – they have poor connections to each other, and within the city regions themselves.”

Image credit -  Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

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