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USE HS2 FUNDS TO REWRITE THE NORTH EAST DEVOLUTION DEAL AND UNDO DURHAM TRANSPORT SNUB

The Government has been urged to use money saved by scrapping HS2 to undo a multi-million pound Durham transport snub.


North East Mayor candidate Kim McGuinness and Durham Labour Group leader Carl Marshall have called on the Government to finally hand County Durham the same transport funds that Northumberland, Tyne and Wear are set to receive in the North East devolution deal.

“The Government was happy to take money meant for high speed rail to the north and use it to fix London potholes, now they need to show they can do the same for Durham,” Kim said.

The current Tory devolution deal offered to the North East saw six areas handed more than £147m of extra City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement.

But because Lib Dem/Tory coalition Leaders in Durham joined the deal too late that money was already allocated to the six other councils and Durham was blocked from accessing vital transport funds.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced last autumn he was scrapping a High Speed Rail line which was set to free up capacity on the overcrowded East Coast Main Line. He promised a raft of smaller projects to make up for the snub – including another tranche of city region transport funds.

Now, Kim McGuinness and Carl Marshall have said its time the Government revisited their Durham snub.

Kim said: “People in County Durham shouldn’t be denied their share of vital transport funds just because the original deal froze them out. The Government has made clear it has more transport money to invest after axing HS2, especially for London. It’s time someone spoke up for Durham’s needs.

“There’s a budget in March and we’ll be asking the Government to correct this snub.

“First, Durham needs its share of the original transport pot. We can’t have two-tier devolution in the North East.

“Second, we need confirmation from the Government that its next transport fund will include Durham.”

Councillor Carl Marshall said: “The Government froze Durham out of a key transport fund, then it scrapped investment in the North. If the Government wants us to believe there is now more money for transport then ministers should do the honourable thing and put County Durham back on a level playing field – Give Durham its fair share of transport investment.

“That means looking again at what was on offer and calculating our share. We’re talking a multi-million pound share of a transport pot that should be available to us but was not.

“Durham County Council should be showing leadership and challenging Government over this.”

Kim and Carl have committed to lobbying for extra transport investment as part of Kim’s campaign to be Labour’s North East mayor.

Rishi Sunak showed the lack of trust in his Government to deliver for the North when he announced he was scrapping HS2 and unveiled a list of transport projects which would replace the scheme.

However, many of the projects had either already been announced or had previously been halted, including electrification of the Transpennine line, first announced in 2017, a new bypass for Blyth announced in 2018 but still not delivered, and the latest reannouncement of the on and off again plan to dual the A1.

 


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