Northern Powerhouse fallacy

Northern Powerhouse

Not long ago, I was in Manchester. I hadn’t been to the city for a long time. It still has some fine old buildings, mainly inherited from the Victorian era but large parts of Manchester look like some mix of Dallas and Dubai.

All the new development could be seen as a pre-echo of the great Northern Powerhouses chancellor George Osborne says he wants to create. Apparently, he envisages new ‘Londons’ up north. But, as this paper from 2002 shows, London is in state of gross overshoot with, then, a ‘eco footprint’ the size of Spain. Presumably it is significantly worse in 2016:

Osborne et al are right about one thing however. The rail links ‘up north’ are poor. On the TransPenine trains there and back, lots of people had to stand for large parts of the journey, despite having seat bookings. The trains were not just overcrowded but the seat reservation system had broken down while one of the two toilets was out of order on the return journey. Tempers were fraying! It is scarcely any wonder that it is so hard to get people out of their cars.

The solution, however, is not the Osborne one of new high-speed train lines. They are inordinately expensive and destroy large chunks of countryside and indeed some housing. The answer is much simpler: investment in better trains (just an extra carriage would have really helped last weekend) and cheaper fares, plus better signalling systems (which could unlock capacity on some lines thus permitting more frequent trains)

One good thing was travelling Huddersfield (Kirklees council). There was a sudden and indeed dramatic increase in the number of houses with photovoltaic arrays. I wonder why. (Clue:…/kirklees-council-ahead-of-the-energ…).

Some things at the above meeting were a bit frustrating, but the achievements of Andrew Cooper and his colleagues are a stimulating reminder of what can be done, despite all the barriers… if we get properly organised and focused.


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