Nick Clegg has today made announcements about infrastructure spending on the North – including on rail. It’s not clear how firm the plans are, or how fast they would be delivered – they look more like aspirations than plans. But any shift of spending to the North would be welcome – especially after the LibDem/Tory Coalition has slashed Local Government funding in the North so savagely. It would be a small recompense.
Electrification of the Cross Pennine routes is among the suggestions – Leeds/Manchester and Manchester/Sheffield – absolutely no coincidence, of course, that a certain person is MP for a Sheffield constituency. Clegg also admitted that the ‘decrepit’ rolling stock used in the north would be ‘unacceptable’ in London. Amen to that. Let’s wait and see what happens.
Unfortunately the electrification of one Leeds NW local route , the Harrogate line, is not among even the proposed improvements.
Metro – along with North Yorkshire, Harrogate and York councils – made the case for this earlier this year. Electrification would reduce journey times and allow four trains an hour on this busy route. But the Coalition has not backed it.
Alex Sobel, our Parliamentary candidate in Leeds NW, is concerned about this.
‘’The electrification of the Harrogate Line is the right thing to do for passengers and the economy. It’s a shame that Nick Clegg won’t support this vital infrastructure improvement which could help transform journeys to and from North West Leeds. I will be lobbying hard for a future Labour Government to reverse this poor decision.’
But the odd thing is – we all thought that electrification of the Harrogate line was going ahead – and even odder, it was our local LibDem MP who told us.
On the 19th August 2013, Greg Mulholland informed his constituents online that he welcomed the fact that, ‘North Yorkshire County Council has taken the first step in what is anticipated to be a multi-million pound modernisation and improvement of services on the Harrogate rail line.’ He continued, ‘The electrification of the Harrogate line has the opportunity to provide a boost to the local economy and bring massive benefits for businesses, visitors and local people along the route.’
As we said at the time
‘Everyone who has travelled by train between Leeds to York via Harrogate knows all about delays, decrepit rolling-stock and over-crowding so, of course, they will welcome improvements to the line.’
But we issued a warning then
‘But they shouldn’t build their hopes up too high.’
Mr Mulholland, as we’ve frequently pointed out, is prone to spin.
As we’ve also frequently pointed out, he ‘bigs up his announcements’ – the old tactic of the PR man.
We welcomed any improvements – but were very wary that what Mr Mulholland ‘promised’ amounted to much.
Just who would pay for improvements to the line? And just when would electrification come?
Well now Greg’s boss, Nick Clegg, has told us – not this Coalition, and not in any foreseeable future.
The Harrogate line is not to be part of any LibDem/Tory plans for electrification.
But what does this tell us about the quality of information Mr Mulholland gives to his constituents?
Very often, as here, he’s essentially telling you what OTHER people are proposing [or achieving] – with the implication that he’s somehow behind the proposals [or achievements] himself.
All too often his ‘information’ is misleading bluster, designed to catch him a vote, but not always standing up to scrutiny – as this ‘announcement’ twelve months ago shows.
The Harrogate line needs improvement. Electrification would be a great thing.
But in future, Leeds NW constituents would be wise to wait until there’s an official announcement from Mr Mulholland’s boss before they get their hopes up.
And they’d certainly be wise to take announcements on his website with a large pinch of salt.
They’d be wise, too, to wait until LibDem vote-chasing aspirations become firm plans.
Meanwhile, we’ll go on fighting for the best interests of Leeds NW – and giving you accurate information.
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