An MP has urged ministers to draw up a dedicated transport plan for the North – and warned the region will be “left in the slow lane” if decades of underinvestment are allowed to continue.
Hexham MP Guy Opperman said the North, and the North East in particular, needed an infrastructure plan that “addresses the need to improve roads, bridges, buses and railways.”
The Conservative MP said: “Putting together an agreed plan is vital if we are to help the recovery continue, especially spreading out the benefits from those Northern Hub cities of Carlisle and Newcastle.”
Leading a Commons debate on transport infrastructure in Northumberland, Mr Opperman highlighted the 62-mile Tyne Valley train line, running from Newcastle to Carlisle via Hexham, saying trains used on the route “need improvement desperately”.
It serves more than a million passengers but the trains used on the line are “very out of date”, he said.
“The Pacers trains especially are uncomfortable and out-of-date. They are cold in winter and hot in summer, lack wifi, offer limited luggage space, and both my constituents and visitors deserve better.”
The MP highlighted concerns about the new Northern Rail franchise, following concerns that services could be cut.
Mr Opperman called for “an improvement, not a contraction in the capacity of the services”, adding: “I want the minister to allay concerns about the franchise.”
In a wide-ranging speech he said he backed the creation of a transport smartcard for public transport across the North East, similar to the ‘Oyster’ card operating in London.
And he highlighted the importance of finally dualling the A1.
Sir Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick, told ministers a commitment to dual the A1 could help persuade Scots considering how to vote in the independence referendum that the UK was committed to investing in Scotland, and urged ministers to confirm the work would go ahead.