Nick Clegg pledges developing North East will be at the heart of Lib Dem manifesto

Liberal Democrats will accept "One North" proposals to imporve the region's transport network, says party leader Clegg

Danny Lawson/PA Wire Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg threw his backing behind ambitious £15bn plans to transform the transport network across the North as his party conference began in Glasgow.

Mr Clegg said proposals drawn up by Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield would be included in the Lib Dem election manifesto next year.

But it is unclear whether Lib Dems will back every proposal in the ambitious the scheme, which includes plans for a new tunnelled trans-Pennine route.

Local authorities representing the five cities published their plans in a paper called One North in August.

The measures are partly a response to the proposed new high speed rail line, known as HS2, and are designed to ensure every part of the North shares in the benefits.

For the North East it would mean improvements to rail links between Newcastle and York, as well as improvements to commuter train routes between Tees Valley, Wearside and Tyneside.

The paper also urged the Government and opposition parties to consider extending HS2 north into Newcastle and on to Edinburgh.

Mr Clegg said: “For too long the North of England has been neglected by central government. To close the north-south gap we need better transport infrastructure in the region. This means better motorways and better railway connections.

“The Liberal Democrats will develop and implement the One North proposals advocated by local authorities across the region.”

He added: “We are putting our commitment to transport infrastructure at the front and centre of our election campaign in the North.

“The Liberal Democrats are committed to re-balancing the national economy.

“To build strong and powerful regions not only do we need to devolve power and money, we need to make sure that they have the infrastructure they need.”

There was another potential boost for the North East’s transport network as Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, highlighted plans to dual the A1.

The Government has said it accepts the case for dualling the road north of Newcastle in principle, and George Osborne, the Chancellor, is thought likely to announce final approval for the work in November’s autumn statement.

Mr Alexander said Liberal Democrats were pushing for the road to be improved.

BerwickMP Sir Alan Beith MP, who has been campaigning for upgrades to the A1, said: “The Chief Secretary to the Treasury knows how much investment in the A1 would help Northumberland and the North East and without his insistence on extra funding for the Department of Transport to pick up the work done in developing plans for the A1 we would not be making the progress which is now apparent.”

Mr Alexander also warned that further spending cuts will be needed after the next election, and set out plans to add extra bands onto council tax to raise more money from the rich.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer