The Transport Secretary has denied that Lancashire is a poor relation to the rest of the North of England when it comes to planned rail and road improvements.
Chris Grayling said that it was his goal to ensure the county was not left behind as projects to cut journey times across the North begin to take shape.
Earlier this year, the strategic body Transport for the North (TfN) unveiled a plan for so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail, a combination of new and upgraded lines which will better connect Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle – and link into the HS2 route.
However, Mr. Grayling rejected the suggestion that Lancashire is set to lose out as a result of that city-based focus.
“The Northern Powerhouse is about the whole of North – and I’ve tried to make sure we have channelled money into other areas,” he said.
“We have completed the electrification of the line between Blackpool and Manchester and that means the trains on that corridor are going to be running at 100mph.
“You can’t change the world overnight, but that’s a big step forward for parts of Lancashire.
“We’re also replacing every single train in the North – those slow elderly trains are on their way out this summer,” added Mr. Grayling, who will today tell an audience in Manchester that the government has funded over £600m of green transport schemes in the North.
TfN also recently revealed its long-term plan for transport across the wider region over the next thirty years. That document does mention Lancashire as one of the key strategic development corridors in the North.
And according to Mr Grayling, the government’s willingness to invest in the county’s transport infrastructure has been demonstrated in past and planned projects in previously “neglected” areas.
“The Heysham link road [opened in 2016] is a really important example of unlocking a part of Lancashire that was poorly served by transport before.
“I’ve also mandated Highways England to start work on the routes between East Lancashire and Yorkshire.”
But the Secretary of State was more circumspect about whether TfN would secure the £39bn which it said was needed in its outline business case in order to make its plans for the North a reality.
“It’s not so much TfN getting £39bn – TfN is there to set investment priorities, but as the investment programme rolls forward [those] priorities will definitely be a part of that,” he said.