My latest Rochdale Observer article

It’s many years now since Government promised the North both a modern Northern Powerhouse Rail linking town and cities across the North of England like Crossrail does in London, and HS2 giving high speed 21st rail travel between Manchester, Leeds to Birmingham and on to London. It’s now some years since Northern Powerhouse Rail was downgraded. It’s also some years since the Leeds leg of HS2 was cancelled. Delays and lack of cost control have hit HS2 on the leg between London and Birmingham and we’re now told the stretch between Birmingham and Crewe will be delayed.  What that is bound to mean is at best further delays bringing HS2 to Manchester to serve the North West. Or should we brace ourselves to be told by this London-facing government that we don’t need it to come to Manchester? All we need, they’ll tell us, is a good enough link to Crewe and they’ll repaint a few old carriages and forget all the promises made. That’s exactly what happened to Northern Powerhouse Rail, downgraded, no longer to be electrified across the system and no longer what the North really needs. From the beginning I was suspicious of London/Whitehall decision makers who could always find the money for big projects in the South East but delayed and delayed things for the North. I argued and, I admit, lost the argument that HS2 should have begun in the North and linked Manchester to Birmingham. That would have linked two big economic areas together and opened up new jobs and opportunities. Real levelling up. We could have finished it more quickly and moved on to the London leg. But London said “no”. It’s all about London. So forgive me if I don’t trust Transport Ministers and the Transport Department not to cancel the Manchester leg and abandon what the North needs once again.

On a different note, the local elections are fast coming upon us. I hope people will vote and decide who runs our Councils in Rochdale and beyond. It’s your democratic right to vote for, or git rid of, politicians. But this election will be the first when anybody voting at the polling station will have to produce photo-identification. This can be a passport, driving licence or other official ID. If you haven’t got these you can apply now to the Council for a photo ID document. Postal voters are not affected. It’s a daft change because  some people will end up not being able to exercise their democratic right when they forget to bring the ID with them. But no photo ID, no vote at the polling station.

This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 8 April 2023.